Westlake and Keller; Proposed Fire Department Merger
The Town of Westlake and the City of Keller will soon begin exploring the possibility of merging our Fire departments aimed at improving services and expanding regional response capabilities.
The move comes 19 years after our first successful partnership — a contract that has the Keller Police Department proudly serving as Westlake’s police force — and a string of other groundbreaking efforts: regional 911 dispatch, animal services and detention operations shared through a mix of agreements between Westlake and Keller along with the cities of Colleyville, Southlake and Roanoke.
“This is an incredible opportunity for both communities to come together to create a regional department,” Westlake Fire-EMS Chief Richard Whitten said. “There is a growing trend across the nation of fire departments consolidating into single regional departments and I am honored to be a part of this transformation.”
Discussions about the potential for a Fire Department merger began as the City of Keller prepared for the retirement of Fire Chief David Jones in January. After some initial discussion between the towns’ managers, elected leaders from both communities agreed to a feasibility study anticipated to take 12-18 months.
The first step of the process will be an inter local agreement expected to go before both the Keller and Westlake councils in the weeks ahead. Through that agreement, Chief Whitten would begin serving as Keller’s Interim Fire Chief, and Keller battalion chiefs would start running calls in Westlake. The departments also anticipate some early adjustments in EMS responses as the two communities begin sharing their combined three ambulance crews.
Keller Deputy Fire Chief Shane Gainer and Westlake Deputy Fire Chief/Fire Marshal John Ard would remain second in command for their respective departments, and firefighters serving each community would continue to do so.
We expect that the 12- 18 months ahead will be an important learning experience for both departments as we work with each other, community leadership and residents to determine how a merged department would operate.
“We’ve already seen what can be accomplished through mutual aid agreements and our regional Fire Department association focused on specialized rescues,” Gainer said. “A partnership like this could take those efforts to the next level in caring for our communities.”