The Town of Nolensville’s first municipal fire department is on course to be operational this summer.
According to Nolensville Fire Department Chief David Windrow, his newly hired command staff is working to make sure that all of the parts are in place for their kickoff goal of July 1.
The department still must finalizing agreements between the town, the county and the Nolensville Volunteer Fire Department Board, which will continue to serve as a 501c3 nonprofit, although the exact capacity and role of the organization is not clear at this time.
Windrow said that volunteers will continue to be an integral part of the emergency services in Nolensville, calling them “one of the best volunteer departments in the state.”
Windrow said that NVFD’s efforts and successes in serving the Nolensville community and offering assistance to neighboring communities will significantly aid in the Nolensville Fire Department’s future.
Windrow said that he wants that appreciation and respect for NVFD’s role in the town and community’s pivotal moment to be clear, so clear that the NVFD fire patch has been adopted by NFD with the establishment date of 1973.
“They have a well established zone and well established relationships, and we’re going to implement some of that institutional knowledge [that they have,]” Windrow said. “We want to build off of those assets and make them better."
Currently NFD has hired three people for the position of fire captain and are testing applicants for three engineers and six firefighter positions.
“From liability, insurance, training, staffing purposes, the town will take the volunteers in and put them on our insurances and things,” Windrow said. “So what it will most likely look like is a true combination department, a combination of both volunteer and paid staff.”
“There’s a lot of moving parts, and a lot of tradition with the volunteer department, and how do we honor how they’ve brought us up to this point and respecting the things they’ve done through the years and incorporate those going forward,” Windrow said. “There’s a balance there.”
Windrow said that this model will allow for those who want to volunteer with a defined path towards a paid firefighting career the option, while also allowing volunteers who may want to remain volunteers the chance at continuing to serve the community.
“There are specialties with those volunteers,” Windrow said, noting roles such as a department chaplain, or volunteers who specialize in community engagement efforts. Windrow said that community engagement will be a big focus of the department — they'll host blood drives and have a booth set up at next month’s Buttercup Festival.
Windrow said that his plan is to take the best practices he’s seen across his 24 years of service with nearby Brentwood Fire and Rescue and his total 38 years of fire experience and make those the foundation of the department in order to secure long-term success. He wants to expand in assisting the community in other ways in addition responding to emergency calls.
“From a service-delivery model, we’ll increase the delivery of services,” Windrow said, from offering child car seat inspections to life-safety inspections for schools, churches or restaurants to smoke detector inspections and public outreach campaigns on managing and maintaining home sprinkler systems, or a public safety day.
Windrow said these are things that NVFD personnel currently just don’t have the time to handle as their main function currently is responding to emergency calls.
One of those tasks that Windrow is currently tackling is ensuring the maintenance and inspection of the town’s more than 700 fire hydrants. The town put out a request for bid for contractors on Wednesday which is open until April 1 to perform flow tests of 449 of those hydrants.
“Hopefully by July 1 that project will be over,” Windrow said. “We’ll contract out this first round and get ahead of it.”
Windrow said that ideally within five years the town would be nearing the completion of one municipal fire station, with a second fire station within ten years, in order to provide the most coverage for the least amount of cost to the town and to taxpayers.
Windrow added that by the ten year mark the department would probably see a staff of around 24 full-time career firefighters, not including part-time and volunteer firefighters.
This goal includes the essential step of finding land to build a future fire hall on, land that is not getting any cheaper, as the population in and surrounding Nolensville grows.
Windrow said that it’s not off the table that the current NVFD fire station that is owned by the county could become the town’s first station.
Windrow added that all of the plans are subject to change as the fluidity of the projects and the department’s growth become more clear in the coming months and years, but did say that by 2023 Williamson Medical Center will operate an ambulance out the town to boost their medical coverage and response times.
All of these efforts, Windrow said, will also have the tangible impact on residents by boosting the town’s Insurance Services Office (ISO) ratings, with the goal of achieving a ISO rating of 2 in the long term.
“We’re currently four so we’re not that far away,” Windrow said. “Those would be grand 10-year goals of the organization.
Within that larger plan, Windrow said that it’s important for him and his command staff to be able to foster the right culture that he said is rooted in providing “the best service we can to every citizen when they need us.”
For Windrow this opportunity is not simply just a professional change or a promotion, but a personal one especially after he and his family recently moved to Nolensville when he was still serving as BFR’s Deputy Fire Chief.
“I have prepared my entire career for an opportunity like this,” Windrow said. “You rarely get to start a department and it is unheard of to start one in the community where you reside.”
More information about NFD, including any future job postings can be found here.