Fire Dept Survival Training at Playscape: Photos

The Georgetown Parks Department began deconstructing the Creative Playscape at San Gabriel Park last week. The City is in the process of redesigning and rebuilding the play structure.

But before the work on the playscape started, its tight spaces served as a survival training facility for the Georgetown Fire Department. Last week, Georgetown firefighters completed a multiple-day survival training exercise in which the confined spaces and maze-like configuration of the playscape simulated a collapsed building.

In full bunker gear with boots, helmets, air tanks, and breathing masks covered in translucent wrap to simulate smoke, firefighters followed 200-feet of fire hose that snaked up stairs, over walkways, down a slide, and under confined spaces to get out.

A firefighter’s air tank holds a maximum of 30 minutes of air. If they are breathing hard, they may have less than 10 minutes. A green light on their air pack tells them they are OK. A blinking orange light means they have half of a tank. Blinking red means they have less than 10 minutes before they run out.

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Battalion Chief Carl Boatright gives a briefing to a group of firefighters before they each put on their bunker gear and crawl through.

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Firefighters must follow the length of hose and are trained to “read” the hose with their hands. At each hose coupling, they can feel “smooth, bump, bump, to the pump” which tells them they are heading the right direction to get back to the fire truck and out of the structure.

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A firefighter navigates a loop of hose. This can be an especially tricky place to get turned around and head the wrong way.

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A firefighter following the length of hose emerges from a tight spot on the playscape.

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Another tight spot.

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Wearing an air tank and holding an axe, each firefighter had to pull himself under a cargo net feature while on their back.

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Firefighter Price Inman, having made it to the end of the hose and finishing the course, takes off his breathing mask and shares a laugh with Captain David England.

The training was conceived by the fire department after hearing of the impending disassembling of the playscape. The Georgetown Parks and Recreation Department agreed to let the fire department use the structure for training before it was taken down. The training did not damage playscape features like the art wall and murals that are being preserved and repurposed in the new design.

Tragically, firefighters in Texas have attended many funerals this year for firefighters who were lost in building collapses, explosions, and other deadly structure fires. Training may not have saved all those who were lost, but it may save some lives in a critical emergency. That is why the whole department participated in the survival training at the playscape.

Memorial Stair Climb on 9/11 in Georgetown

Georgetown firefighters and police officers will participate in a memorial stair climb at Georgetown ISD football stadium on Wednesday, September 11. The climb is done each year as a tribute to first responders who lost their lives on September 11, 2001. Participants will climb the equivalent of 110 stories—the height of the World Trade Center towers.

The event begins at 8 a.m. with comments from Georgetown Fire Chief John Sullivan and Georgetown Assistant Police Chief Cory Tchida. An honor guard will post the colors before the climb begins. The flag posted will be the flag of heroes, which contains the names of all the first responders who died on 9/11. Battalion Chief Jeff Davis, a piper with Georgetown Fire Department Pipes and Drums, will play as the climb begins.

FDNY Rescue 4, a fire truck that responded with a crew of firefighters to the World Trade Center on 9/11, will be at the beginning of the Georgetown memorial stair climb event. FDNY Rescue 4 is currently based in Taylor.

The firefighters on the climb will be wearing firefighting gear including boots, helmets, protective pants and jackets, and air packs. Police officers will carry extra tactical gear on the climb. Participants will pause for a moment of silence at the times that each of the World Trade Center towers collapsed.

Georgetown Battalion Chief Carl Boatright, who is coordinating the event, says he expects 30 to 40 climbers to participate, including firefighters, police officers, and emergency medical technicians. Participants will climb the stairs to the top of the football stadium 16 times.

Later in the day on Wednesday, Georgetown firefighters will participate in the annual September 11 commemoration and parade in Taylor.

The Georgetown ISD Athletic Complex, where the stair climb will take place in the morning, is located behind Georgetown High School at 2211 N. Austin Avenue in Georgetown.

Texas Commission on the Arts Approves Cultural District

Georgetown’s cultural district designation was approved by the board of the Texas Commission on the Arts at their meeting on Thursday in Austin. Georgetown’s was one of five new cultural districts in cities across Texas approved by the commission.

The Georgetown cultural district includes the 40-block area of downtown included in the Downtown Historic Overlay, centered by the Williamson County Courthouse Town Square. Arts and cultural attractions in the district include the Palace Theatre, Williamson Museum, Georgetown Public Library, Grace Heritage Center, downtown art galleries, and shops with hand-crafted items. Other artistic and cultural elements in the district include the Victorian-era architecture around the Square and outdoor public art. The Georgetown Art Center is under construction in the district and will open this month.

Georgetown’s cultural district application earned 930 out of 1,000 possible points from the TCA evaluation panel. Only one other city—Houston—earned a higher score. Evaluators commented that, “Georgetown’s cultural assets are very rich and seem to be growing regularly. The city is building a great public art program, and this will be important in attracting visitors and citizens to the cultural district. The community has a reinvestment zone in place, and this is a key component for development and investment.”

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Pictured in the photo taken at TCA board meeting are (left to right) Eric Lashley, Jim Bob McMillan, and Dr. Gary Gibbs. Lashley is the director of the Georgetown Public Library and staff liaison to the Georgetown Arts and Culture Board. Jim Bob McMillan is the deputy director of the Texas Commission on the Arts. Dr. Gary Gibbs is the executive director of the Texas Commission on the Arts.

The cultural district designation will allow Georgetown to apply for grants from the Texas Commission on the Arts. The designation also will be a marketing and tourism tool for Georgetown businesses, nonprofits, and local government.

The TCA has approved 24 cultural district designations in Texas cities, including the five districts approved on Thursday and 19 existing districts. For details, go to

This video provides an overview of the Georgetown cultural district.



Tourism Websites Win Top Awards in Texas

Georgetown’s tourism website and Red Poppy Festival website were named the best in the state at a recent tourism conference. The Georgetown Convention and Visitors Bureau won the awards at the annual conference of the Texas Association of Convention and Visitors Bureaus held on August 8.

CVB and won for best website and won for best mobile site. The Judge’s Choice pick for each site was awarded by a panel of tourism experts from across the state. Competition included tourism bureaus in cities of all sizes, including large cities with annual budgets exceeding $1 million. Both Georgetown sites were designed by City of Georgetown Webmaster Erin McDonald and Rhyme and Reason, a design firm in Atlanta. Content for the sites was provided by Georgetown Convention and Visitors Bureau staff.

Pictured left to right are City employees Erandine Lewis, Erin McDonald, Marcy Renneberg, and Cari Miller. McDonald is in public communications and Lewis, Renneberg, and Miller work for the Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The and sites are among the first in Texas to employ responsive design, which delivers website content optimized for any type of device, including smartphones, tablets, or computers. In recent years there has been a significant increase in mobile users online, which is a key reason for responsive design.

Over a six month period this year, McDonald and Renneberg reworked all the website coding and content, incorporating new images and design elements created by Rhyme and Reason. The new and sites offer a web experience for mobile devices that equals that of users on computer screens.

In addition to the Judge’s Choice awards, and each won People’s Choice awards in a popular vote at the conference for best website and best mobile site, respectively. The People’s Choice awards were among convention and visitors bureaus with budgets below $350,000.

Main Street Grants: Hummingbird Hollow, Artisans Connect

The Georgetown Main Street program recently presented checks to reimburse a portion of the cost for new signs at Hummingbird Hollow and Artisans Connect. The Main Street Façade and Sign Fund is a matching grant program for commercial buildings in the historic downtown area.

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Hummingbird Hollow is a boutique with gifts, women’s apparel, and accessories at 824 S. Austin Avenue ( Hummingbird Hollow received at $500 check for a portion of the cost of new signs. Pictured (left to right) in the photo are Marcy Urban, Cindy Harrington, Jim Wilson, Trisha Tallman, Erland Schulze, David Kellerman, Shelly Hargrove, Julie Laderach, and John Marler.

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Artisans Connect Gallery at 122 E. Eighth Street features ceramic, metal, glass, and mixed media pieces as well as paintings and jewelry by Central Texas artists ( Artisans Connect Gallery received a $500 check for a portion of the cost of new signs. Pictured (left to right) in the photo are Marcy Urban, Julie Laderach, John Marler, Jim Wilson, Trisha Tallman, Diane Gaume, Cindy Harrington, Shelly Hargrove, and David Kellerman.

Hummingbird signs-b-400The Main Street Façade and Sign Fund provides reimbursement grants to business owners in the historic downtown area for a portion of improvements made to building facades and new signs.

Sign matching grants are for up to $500 and façade matching grants are up to $10,000 for exterior work on a historic building.

The building facade and signs for Hummingbird Hollow are shown at left.

The storefront and signs for Artisans Connect Gallery are shown below.

Georgetown Main Street promotes historic preservation and economic development efforts in the historic downtown. Main Street is a program of the City of Georgetown Division of Downtown and Community Services.

Artisans sign-b-400Learn more at

City Sells Former Albertson’s Building

The Albertson’s has been sold.

At their regular meeting on Tuesday, the Georgetown city council voted to accept a bid for $3.55 million from M.F. Trinity Management for the former Albertson’s grocery store building. The sale should be finalized in 60 days.

The 56,331 square-foot former Albertson’s building at 610 N. Austin Avenue is at the southeast corner of Williams Drive and Interstate 35. The City purchased the building in 2008 with the intention to use it for a public safety and municipal court facility. That plan changed in 2010 and the City then put the building up for sale in a public bid process.

M.F. Trinity Management has not yet announced the use for the property. More details are expected once the sale is finalized.

Main Street Grants to ReImagine and Avalon Monuments

The Georgetown Main Street program recently presented checks to reimburse a portion of the cost for new signs at ReImagine and Avalon Monuments. The Main Street Façade and Sign Fund is a matching grant program for commercial buildings in the historic downtown area.


ReImagine is an antique and home furnishings store at 1006 S. Austin Avenue. ReImagine received a $322 check for a portion of the cost of new signs for the business. Pictured (left to right) in the photo above are Janice Jacoby, Marcy Urban, John Marler, Janis Shields, Amneris Castillo, Jim Wilson, and Shelly Hargrove.


Avalon Monuments at 1004 S. Austin Avenue provides custom monuments, headstones, portraits, memorials, and cremation urns, as well as the etching of final death dates ( Avalon Monuments received a $500 check for a portion of the cost of new signs for the business. Pictured (left to right) in the photo above are Janice Jacoby, Janis ReImagine sign-b-400Shields, Cindy Harrington, Lois Townsend, John Marler, Larry Townsend, Jim Wilson, Marcy Urban, and Shelly Hargrove.

The Main Street Façade and Sign Fund provides reimbursement grants to business owners in the historic downtown area for a portion of improvements made to building facades and new signs.

Sign matching grants are for up to $500 and façade matching grants are up to $10,000 for exterior work on a historic building.

Avalon-sign-b-400Georgetown Main Street promotes historic preservation and economic development efforts in the historic downtown.

Main Street is a program of the City of Georgetown Division of Downtown and Community Services. Learn more at

City Lifeguards Place 2nd at State Competition

A team of four lifeguards – Kate Krause, Madi Smith, Aaron Duke and Hunter Boyd – represented the City of Georgetown as lifeguardsTeam Code Red Cross at the State Lifeguard Competition held in Corpus Christi on July 24. These individuals represented the City in a fantastic showing which garnered a second overall finish, coming in only behind Kerrville. Competition was tough as the City of Georgetown faced 12 strong teams from the Woodlands, Frisco, McKinney, Cedar Park, Conroe, Schlitterbahn and Summerland.

Teams competed in four different areas: CPR, First Aid, Spinal Scenario and a group scenario.

To get to the state competition the team had to qualify by placing 1st – 3rd overall  in one of the  four regional competitions. Regional competitions typically have anywhere from 12-35 teams compete.  The City of Georgetown Code Red Cross team came in 1st place overall at the Central Texas Lifeguard Competition held in New Braunfels on July 15 to earn their spot at the state competition.

Congratulations to these four individuals on a job well done!

New Mosquito Control Effort Targets West Nile Risk

The City of Georgetown and the Williamson County and Cities Health District are collaborating on a new targeted effort to reduce the risk from mosquitos that carry West Nile virus. The new joint initiative is the first of its kind in Williamson County.

Since mid-June, a City of Georgetown employee in transportation services has been collecting mosquitos in traps in several Georgetown locations. The traps are collected twice weekly and the mosquitos are transported by Health District employees to the Texas Department of State Health Services lab in Austin. Mosquitos that are potential carriers of West Nile are analyzed.

So far, no mosquito tests have detected the presence of the virus. The weekly testing will continue through the summer.

The City also is using larvicide disks in drainage ponds and other areas with standing water to kill mosquito larvae before it hatches to the adult insect.

The mosquito trapping and testing program was the result of heightened concern last summer after an increased number of fatalities from West Nile virus in Texas, including one person from Williamson County. Twelve people in Williamson County were hospitalized last year due to West Nile virus infection. Given the heightened concern last year, the Georgetown city council directed City staff to refine the City’s mosquito control program.

Over the past year, employees from the City and the Health District have worked to develop a new approach. In the past, the City’s transportation department used a pesticide sprayer to kill adult mosquitos in public parks and, years ago, in residential areas.

The new mosquito trapping and testing program is targeted to identifying areas with mosquitos that carry the West Nile virus. The approach is based on similar programs in Travis County and Harris County. Employees from the City and the Health District learned from those in Travis County in developing the trapping and testing methods.

If mosquitos from an area were to test positive for the virus, then additional steps can be taken, such as searches for standing water, increased use of larvicides, or additional public information about reducing breeding areas and the risk of exposure. If testing shows significantly increased exposure risk to West Nile virus, then ground-based pesticide fogging or aerial pesticide spraying can be considered.

The new mosquito trapping and testing program by the City and the Health District is only one component in an effective reduction of West Nile virus risk. The most important steps are those that can be taken by each resident.

Everyone can “Fight the Bite” by following the Four-D’s:

  • Dawn and Dusk are the times to try to stay indoors since those are times mosquitoes are most active.
  • Dress in long sleeves and pants when outdoors.
  • Drain standing water in flower pots, pet dishes, or clogged gutters so mosquitos don’t have a place to breed.
  • DEET is an effective bug spray ingredient to apply to clothing.

Eliminating places where mosquitos can breed and reducing the chances of mosquito bites are the best lines of defense against exposure to West Nile virus.

For more information on the mosquito control program in Georgetown, visit the Williamson County and Cities Health District website at For more information on West Nile virus and the response in Texas, go to the Texas Department of State Health Services website at

Police Officers Sworn In

oath Jones and Jones-b-450Two Georgetown employees were sworn in as peace officers by Georgetown Police Chief Wayne Nero on Monday.

Robert Jones took the oath from Chief Nero to become a Georgetown police officer in a ceremony at the police department. Jones previously worked for nine years for the Williamson County Sheriff’s Office. Officer Jones will be working in the patrol division.

Nero and Robert Jones-b-350Police Chief Wayne Nero is pictured with Officer Robert Jones at left.

Hank Jones, who is a captain in the Georgetown Fire Department, also took the oath to become a certified police officer. Capt. Jones leads the fire prevention and fire investigation programs for the Fire Department. As a peace officer, Capt. Jones will be able to take law enforcement actions, such as writing a citation as part of an arson investigation.

To complete the nine-month basic peace officers course in Austin, Capt. Jones took classes on evenings and weekends while concurrently working his day job at the Fire Department.

Hank Jones-b-175Capt. Jones started with the Georgetown Fire Department in 1998.

Capt. Hank Jones is pictured at right.