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Hometown Heroes: Mount Pleasant First Responders

Mount Pleasant Fire Department members and the ’36 antique Ford/Boyer fire engine:
From L-R, back row- Lance Hall; Ranson Pipes; Shannon Hughes.
From L-R, front row- Captain Otis Clark; (seated); Adrian Sitzes; (seated) Deputy Chief Danny Beard and (in the black mask), Chief Larry McRae.

Corporal Destiny Cooper, Mount Pleasant Police Department

By Suzanne Brooke

Even in the best of times, First Responders prepare for the worst.

So it’s no surprise how our Mount Pleasant Police Department, Fire Department, and EMTs are serving the local community during this global pandemic. It includes Mount Pleasant Fire Chief Larry McRae leading response efforts as the Emergency Management Coordinator for Titus County.

“I am very proud of how our police officers, firefighters, and EMTs are operating, despite the increased danger of being exposed to COVID-19 they each face,” said McRae. “Our citizens can remain confident that we are here to serve and protect 24/7.”

McRae’s increased duties as Emergency Management Coordinator include hosting a daily Emergency Management Team conference call with a countywide breadth of leadership who share challenges, solutions, and resources to battle the spread of COVID-19 in a very fluid environment.

Participants include Titus County Judge Brian Lee; Titus Regional Medical Center CEO Terry Scoggin; the Cities of Mt. Pleasant, Talco and Winfield; Mt Pleasant, Chapel Hill, Rivercrest, and Harts Bluff ISDs; North East Texas Community College; State Representative Cole Hefner’s office; Darrell Grubbs, Titus Co. Fresh Water District Director; Nathan Carroll, Texas Division of Emergency Management; Richard Bonny, Mount Pleasant Chamber of Commerce; and Nathan Tafoya, Mount Pleasant Economic Development Corporation.

“Finding enough time during the day to take care of normal Fire Department business as well as Emergency Management business is challenging,” said McRae. “Being able to delegate to my Deputy Chiefs has been critical. We could not accomplish what we have without their assistance.”

McRae also works closely with Mount Pleasant Interim Chief Kyle Holcomb. “Chief McRae and I have served in joint command situations together for many years, so we believe that our departments are operating very well during this crisis,” said Holcomb, who comes from a fire background and understands Incident Command Procedures. 

COVID-19 was on the radar for McRae, Holcomb, and the other community leaders long before it hit Texas. “We were monitoring reports that were trickling out early in the winter, and began discussing how it would affect us and our area,” said McRae. “Titus Regional Medical Center began looking at how they would prepare for the overflow of patients if an outbreak occurred.”

By February, McRae and Holcomb were also working to secure a supply of N-95 masks and gloves for their personnel and began making other incident plans.

“Our biggest challenge right now is dealing with crowds that continue to gather in homes, parks, and other public places,” said Holcomb. “Under the state and county emergency declarations, more than ten people gathered is a Class B Misdemeanor and subject to a $1,000 fine or 180 days in jail. Enforcement puts added stress on our officers, and we appreciate the cooperation of everyone to abide by the law.”

For firefighters, the challenge is a little different. “By nature, they are public-oriented, so remaining at the station without visitors and not being out in public has been a change,” said McRae. “But they know we have a job to do, and we will do it well while practicing universal precautions.”

Despite days filled with crisis management, there is hope. “It has been encouraging to see our community come together to make masks to donate and find ways to worship while under restrictions,” said Holcomb. “Everyone needs to keep looking for ways to help each other, stay calm, and follow the City website and Facebook page for the most up-to-date information on COVID-19.” 

“The way the county has worked together, and the policies Judge Lee and Mount Pleasant Mayor Tracy Craig Sr. , Winfield Mayor Debbie Cruitt and Talco Mayor Keith Thompson have put in place early on have helped and protected our citizens,” said McRae. “We have to stay flexible as guidelines change because the book on COVID-19 is written daily.”

FIRST RESPONDERS’ REQUEST:

Do what our leaders are asking…

Stay Home

Limit travel unless absolutely necessary

Limit gatherings anywhere to less than 10

Wash your hands, cover your sneeze/cough

Wear masks in public

Limit visits to stores to ONE person per family