Carsner new Highlands Fire Chief

Chief Little Retires; Honored as Firefighter of the Year

HIGHLANDS – Members of the Highlands Fire Department held their 2024 Recognition and Awards Banquet last Saturday evening, at the Monument Inn in Deer Park. For the first time in 31 years, a new Fire Chief, Mike Carsner, was in charge of the event. After 36 years with the department, and 31 years as Fire Chief, the dinner marked the retirement of Chief Harvey Little.

Little was also honored by the department, as ESD#14 president Jim Strouhal presented the Firefighter of the Year award to him. This award is given in memory of Cecil Kelly, who volunteered with the Highlands VFD for over 42 years before retiring in 1996. The recipient chosen by vote of the membership is a firefighter who performed above and beyond the call of duty.

A large crowd of firemen and families, friends, community supporters, and board members attended the dinner. Fire Chief Mike Carsner emceed the ceremony, introducing awards, guests, and honorees. Special Awards included Citizen of the Year Claudia Birdsong, Business of the Year Luna’s Tire Shop, Rookie Firefighter Zante Oliver, and 2024 Mascot Hunter Alford.

Chief Carsner reviewed the history of the department for 2023. He noted that there were a total of 3,765 calls for service, compared with last year’s 3,381. Of these 2,465 were EMS calls compared with 2,385 the previous year. Life Flight was called 34 times, compared with 45 the previous year. There were 1,191 calls for fire responses, compared with 993 in 2022, a significant increase. The department responded to 186 Motor Vehicle Accidents in 2023, compared to 196 the previous year. It was noted that all but the last category showed significant increases year to year.

Chief Carsner reported on accomplishments in the last year. Response times remained low, crew staffing was good, and an insurance grant f rom TFS was received. Pre Fire plans for 25 businesses in Highlands were completed. Part Time paid fire crew staffing was increased from 3 to 4 per day, funded by ESD#14. Two new emergency response vehicles were purchased and will soon be put into service, replacing D70 and SQ17.

The department held training sessions at the Baytown, Sheldon and Deer Park facilities. Combined training was held with Crosby and Mont Belvieu at the Sheldon Fire Field, and Houston training field.

The EMS report included placing in service a new Frazier-built ambulance Medic 17. Two personnel received CPR instructor certification, and CPR training for the community was initiated. The department is now staffing 2 ambulances 24/7/365 and working towards adding a Paramedic Squad (SQ77) full time due to increased call volume.

Membership in the HVFD stands at 76, up from 69 last year. Of these 29 are regular, 5 apprentices, 1 junior firefighter, 16 retirees (not in the total), 8 EMS full time paid, 17 EMS part-time paid, and 16 part-time paid firemen.

Highlands Fire Department is funded in part by Harris County Emergency Services District #14. Board members are Jim Strouhal, Johnny Gaeke, Jerry Ickes, Mark Taylor, and Elaine Marshall. Weston Cotten is their legal advisor.