Getting firefighters back into the fight is one of the missions of the Ovilla Fire Department.

With its rehab truck, the department is able to provide firefighters working at a scene the proper rest they need in order to get back in action.

The department was awarded a grant in the amount of $46,740 from the Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management agency in cooperation with the U.S. Fire Administration. These funds can be used for training, support operations and to purchase firefighter safety and rescue equipment.

“This grant is going towards rehab of the firefighters. It is to support the rehab of the firefighters on fire scenes. I won’t neglect the police officers because we make quite a few SWAT standoffs a year. It is to aid the firefighters and the police officers in rehab situations,” Ovilla Fire Chief Donnie Pickard said.

“It is a grant that is predominantly for rehab equipment for a rehab truck. It consists of a cardiac monitor, carbon moxie monitors, misting fans, cooling vests and emersion chairs.”

The additional cooling vests that Pickard is looking to add to the rehab unit will cool firefighters down by circulating water through medical grade tubing that is stitched on the front and back of the vest. This forms a network of channels that the water flows through. The cooling unit for the vest contains ice, water and an internal pump that supplies the water to the vest.

“Surgeons actually use them a lot when they are operating for hours and hours to keep their body temperature cool. Racecar drivers also use them and they are popular in the fire service. You sit down in the chair and put the cool vest on. It circulates the water through the vest,” Pickard said.

“When that person gets done you just slip it on the next person and they sit down in the chair and cool off. It is pretty effective. The worst thing that you want a person to do is to shiver. When you shiver it increases their temperature. You just want it enough to cool them down. By putting it on your body, it is cooling all of your vital organs,” he said.

The next items Pickard is looking to add are misting fans by Cool Draft. These fans are made out of stainless steel and are attached to a cooler type box that sprays a fine cooling mist over people.

The two fans he hopes to add operate similar to what are used along the sidelines at football games but smaller and portable. These fans have the ability to lower a temperature by 30 degrees Fahrenheit, he said.

The immersion chairs he wants to add allow a firefighter to slip his or her arms into a sleeve that is built into the arms of the chair. The sleeve contains plastic bags that are filled with ambient temperature water that allows for cooling to occur.

The grant funding also will provide for the purchase of a cardiac monitor and carbon monoxide monitor. This will allow firefighters working the rehab unit to monitor firefighters who are rotating in and out of the scene.

Pickard said the department will get bids from different sources to ensure the funding is spent correctly. While the department has been running a rehab unit for years the funding will allow it to serve firefighters from across the county better.

“This funding will help make sure first responders at the Ovilla Fire Department will have the resources necessary to keep the surrounding community safe,” U.S. Sen. John Cornyn said. “We have a responsibility to support those working on the front lines every day to protect families, homes and property.”

Contact Andrew at or 469-517-1458.