Tuesday, January 26th, 2021



PFLUGERVILLE, JAN. 20, 2021 – As Pflugerville Fire Department ambulances transport more patients with COVID-19-like symptoms, the department is poised to take on more responsibilities if called upon to administer vaccines.

During the first two weeks of January, PFD ambulances transported an average of about five patients each day with “influenza-like illnesses” (ILI).

“We describe it as ‘influenza-like illness’, but we know full well that we are likely dealing with COVID-19,” Fire Chief Ron Moellenberg told the Travis County Emergency Services District No. 2 Board of Commissioners Jan. 14. ESD 2 operates the Pflugerville Fire Department.

The 4.6 average responses a day in January is the highest since monitoring of pandemic response began last March. The 2020 peak was 3.2 ILI responses a day in July.

Moellenberg said he is in discussion with Travis County and Austin Public Health officials who have contacted him asking about opportunities for the fire department to support administering the COVID-19 vaccine.

“All our operational staff members are trained as emergency medical technicians, and many are paramedics, the most advanced level. If called upon, we can do this,” Moellenberg said.

Moellenberg said the department’s operations are integral to the Austin area’s response to the pandemic.

“We’re connected at the hip with all the combatants, if you will,” who are battling the deadly virus, he said.

Moellenberg said that the department had been called upon to send one of its ventilators to  La Grange and that health officials are evaluating the effect of converting the Austin Convention Center into a field hospital.

If  ILI cases are sent to the Convention Center, “it’s a long ride for our ambulances,” Moellenberg observed, “That could draw resources away from our District.”

With Pflugerville Fire Department’s stepped-up response to COVID-19, Moellenberg is, in a way, returning his roots. He holds a degree from Texas A&M in Biomedical Science. After a stint as a clinical specialist in the military during the Vietnam War, he joined the state health                   department and specialized in communicable diseases, first in West Texas and later at the state headquarters in Austin.

In 1986, after years with what was then the Pflugerville Volunteer Fire Department, he was offered the job as the first paid, full-time chief.

Thirty-five years later, his department, comprised of 166 career firefighters, plus administrative support, is dealing with the worst public health crisis in a century.

Moellenberg told the ESD Board that, as of its Jan. 14 meeting, the fire department had incurred more than $413,000 in additional, unbudgeted costs as it responded to the pandemic.

None of the federal stimulus funding has gone directly to emergency services districts. Travis County apportioned some of its CARES Act funding to municipalities, and the City of Pflugerville was awarded $3.5 million.

The City offered an agreement to grant the ESD $10,000, but Moellenberg said that small amount was not worth the risk of compromising the ESD’s ability to get future stimulus funding.

Moellenberg said the Pflugerville Fire Department continues to monitor the health of its firefighters. At the Jan. 14 meeting, he said two firefighters were in quarantine, five were in isolation after being exposed to COVID, and the department was monitoring three others.

“We’re trying to do everything to maintain a healthy workforce,” he said.

Moellenberg praised efforts by Asst. Chief Nick Perkins to arrange COVID vaccines for firefighters through Austin Regional Clinic.

The chief said about 70 percent of PFD firefighters had received the first dose of the two-round vaccine.





Travis County Emergency Services District No. 2, a grassroots government, funds and operates the Pflugerville Fire Department, which provides fire protection and emergency medical response, including ambulance transport, to more than 140,000 people in northeastern Travis County.

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