COPPERAS COVE — The city’s new fire chief, Burney Baskett, officially took the reins of the fire department on Monday with a swearing-in ceremony.
“I am very pleased to announce that today began chief Burney Baskett’s start with the fire department,” City Manager Andrea Gardner said. “Welcome to the community. We are glad to have you for so many reasons, and we look forward to a long lasting relationship.”
Baskett has been in the fire service for 32 years. For 22 years, he worked with the Arlington Fire Department. He served as Hillsboro’s fire chief for six years. For the last five years, Baskett was the South Padre Island fire chief, where he directed 24 full-time firefighters and emergency medical service personnel.
While South Padre Island has a population of about 5,000, the tourist destination frequently has a service population of more than 80,000 people.
Copperas Cove serves about 50,000 residents in Coryell, Lampasas and Bell counties, and Baskett will supervise about 44 personnel.
Baskett said he is glad to be back in Central Texas and looks forward to working in Copperas Cove, a growing city.
“I am looking forward to helping the department and the city grow and enhancing the services to residents,” he said.
Baskett has been helpful with the growth of the South Padre Fire Department, said South Padre City Manager Joni Clarke.
Baskett helped the city build a new fire station.
Baskett’s prior experience with new stations could be useful in Copperas Cove, as the city is in the process of building two. Station 2 is nearing construction on its relocation site at the corner of Avenue B and Grimes Crossing Road. And the City Council tonight is accepting a land donation for a fourth station off Old Copperas Cove Road.
“We are going to something that is very functional,” Baskett said.
People don’t realize that firefighters spend a lot time at fire stations, so the facilities will comfortably house those firefighters and emergency medical crews, he said.
“I have spent more time in my life at fire stations than I have at home.”
One thing that drew Baskett to Copperas Cove is the department’s ability to work with the community and host several programs to educate the public about fire and emergency safety.
While in South Padre, Baskett started a beach patrol and set up triage tents so people could be seen there instead of the department having to respond to the beach, Clarke said.
Baskett plans to talk with local residents and community groups to see where the needs are for the fire department.
With Baskett onboard, Copperas Cove will get even more fire department expertise, Gardner said.
“I provided leadership for them, but not the leadership they deserved.”
Garner has served as interim fire chief since the previous chief, Sean Hughes, left the department in October 2012.