LCRA awards $25,000 grant to Columbus Volunteer Fire Department


New fire sprinkler system will protect fire station, firetrucks and equipment

LCRA representatives present a $25,000 grant to the Columbus Volunteer Fire Department for a fire sprinkler system. The grant is part of LCRA’s Community Development Partnership Program. Pictured, from left to right, are: Donald Warschak, city manager; Bana Schneider, city secretary and finance director; Brian Emmel, VFD president; Richard LaCourse, first assistant fire chief; Matthew L. “Matt” Arthur and Margaret D. “Meg” Voelter, LCRA Board members; Sidney Chollett, second assistant fire chief; Dusty Dittmar, fire chief; Duane Naiser, captain; Lori An Gobert, mayor; Anna Schultz, VFD lieutenant and secretary; and Kate Ramzinski, LCRA Regional Affairs representative.

COLUMBUS, Texas – The Columbus Volunteer Fire Department will install a sprinkler system in its fire station to protect firetrucks and other emergency equipment, thanks to a $25,000 grant from the Lower Colorado River Authority.

The Community Development Partnership Program grant, along with $16,950 in matching funds from the department, will pay for the installation of the sprinkler system that will run through the fire station truck bays and rooms that store equipment, including an antique firetruck.

“Last year, we had a fire in our fire station,” said Brian Emmel, Columbus VFD president. “It happened to be during the day when we had personnel on-site, but if no one was here, the fire could’ve burned down the entire station and all the apparatuses in it.”

First Assistant Fire Chief Richard LaCourse said firefighters had been looking into a sprinkler system for the fire station and were working with a contractor at the time of the fire.

“On the day of the fire, the contractor was actually in our station taking rough measurements to see if a sprinkler system would even be possible,” LaCourse said. “The guys on the inside of the fire station started to hear a popping noise and could smell something on fire. Sure enough, our tower – the biggest, baddest, most expensive truck we have in our fleet – caught fire inside the station.”

LaCourse said the incident and the damage it caused made department officials realize they needed to act quickly to get a sprinkler system installed as soon as possible.

“Not many older fire stations have sprinkler systems,” LaCourse said. “Ours is an older one, so all of our trucks sitting in the station are unprotected, which puts us at risk for losing millions upon millions of dollars worth of infrastructure and assets. This project is a step toward fixing a major problem. We have to protect the equipment that protects our communities.”

Emmel said the original Columbus Fire Station was constructed in 1931 and the bay expansion was completed in 1986. This upgrade is the first step in many required renovations and would not be possible without the support of LCRA and the City of Columbus.

“This project is a combined effort,” Emmel said. “The fire department was the grant writer, LCRA is the grant provider, and the City of Columbus is providing additional funding, all to help maintain the safety of the apparatuses and our personnel.”

LaCourse said the city will be responsible for installing and connecting the water line; the grant money from LCRA will help purchase and install the sprinkler system; and the fire department will purchase and install the alarm system. The alarm system will be able to detect a rise in heat, smoke and water flow, and will immediately notify firefighters.

“Knowing that the facility and the equipment inside will be protected will give us peace of mind,” LaCourse said. “We are glad that we are able to tie together a bunch of great organizations for the greater good of the community.”

Columbus VFD has the largest firefighting fleet in the area. It provides mutual aid throughout Colorado County and other surrounding communities.

The community grant is one of 44 grants awarded recently through LCRA’s Community Development Partnership Program, which helps volunteer fire departments, local governments, emergency responders and nonprofit organizations fund capital improvement projects in LCRA’s wholesale electric, water and transmission service areas. The program is part of LCRA’s effort to give back to the communities it serves.

Applications for the next round of grants will be accepted in July. More information is available at

About LCRA

The Lower Colorado River Authority serves customers and communities throughout Texas by managing the lower Colorado River; generating and transmitting electric power; providing a clean, reliable water supply; and offering outdoor adventures at more than 40 parks along the Colorado River from the Texas Hill Country to the Gulf Coast. LCRA and its employees are committed to fulfilling our mission to enhance the quality of life of the Texans we serve through water stewardship, energy and community service. LCRA was created by the Texas Legislature in 1934 and receives no state appropriations.

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