Harris County Emergency Services District 48’s new fire chief, George McAteer, said he’s excited to return to serving the community he lives in after spending more than 30 years with the …
Harris County Emergency Services District 48’s new fire chief, George McAteer, said he’s excited to return to serving the community he lives in after spending more than 30 years with the Houston Fire Department. He said he’d been with the Houston Fire Department a long time and wasn’t looking to move.
“Then I heard this spot became available and this is really the only job I would have left HFD for because I loved my HFD job,” McAteer said.
He began his career in the 1980s in what was then known as the West I-10 Fire Department, now HCESD 48, and said he’s impressed with how the department has evolved over the years, especially the level of organization and programs offered throughout the community served by HCESD 48. The department's district is an area between Fry Road and the city of Katy from an east-to-west perspective and from Clay Road in the north to Westheimer Parkway to the south.
McAteer said he is also grateful to be walking into a department that is well-staffed with team members that have received training above and beyond what many departments can boast. The department has invested in not only having enough people but training them to perform at a higher level than the average fire department – from both firefighting and medical perspectives, he said.
“The paramedics here are authorized to do a lot more advanced procedures than our paramedics in Houston,” McAteer said.
The community outreach programs McAteer sees at the ESD are impressive, he said. The department’s efforts to reach out to the community through its annual Safetyfest event, the Community Paramedicine Program, smoke alarm blitzes – events where firefighters select a neighborhood and perform smoke alarm checks for the community – and HCESD 48’s social media footprint are all notable, McAteer said.
“The community involvement is just – I’ve never, never seen that in a fire department before,” McAteer said. “The community medicine, the community risk reduction – there’s close to two dozen different community involvement programs.”
McAteer said the presence in the community lets taxpayers in the district know how their tax dollars are being spent. They can see members of the department in the community first-hand and through social media as the first responders work to make a difference in the community.
That doesn’t mean McAteer is going to simply rest on the department’s laurels though. McAteer said there is still a lot of work to be done in the department. The HCESD 48 service area contains tens of thousands of homes and McAteer said he expects that the portions of the service area that are now vacant will soon hold homes and businesses as the Katy area continues to grow.
There is still a lot of vacant land between Fry Road and Katy City limits north of I-10 and businesses are currently being built near the intersection of Morton Road and The Grand Parkway. Apartment complexes are being built within the area and just last October, HCESD 48 was the lead department at a fire near Katy Asian Town that destroyed an apartment complex that was still under construction.
The focus for McAteer continues to be assessing the department in the short term as he moves into long-term preparations to get the next fiscal year’s budget prepared. He hopes to standardize salaries throughout the department, clarify career and training progression for staff and make sure that his first responders have what they need to ensure that HCESD 48 is successful in keeping the community safe.
“That’s really what my job is, to provide whatever the firefighters and paramedics need,” McAteer said.
He went on to say that he loves firefighters and paramedics who go into dangerous and unpredictable situations every day, hoping to make people’s lives better.
“They’re just high-energy problem solvers,” McAteer said. “And they take pride in being there to help the public on their worst day ever. We never know what we’re rolling up on. It might be as simple as helping someone up, you know, to multiple shootings and trapped people and that’s why I’m just really proud to be associated with firefighters and paramedics who accept that part of the job.”
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