Blazing New Trails

Ever since he finished his active duty in the U.S. Air Force in 1983, David Windrow has been a firefighter. So when Nolensville needed someone to lead its first paid fire department, he was a natural choice.

The 59-year-old was hired in December 2020 to set job descriptions and policies, purchase and test all initial equipment and hire and train personnel. By July 2021, his team was ready to provide service after 40 years of being staffed by volunteers. 

“You rarely get to start a fire department much less in the town you live in,” said Windrow, a Nolensville resident since 2020. “There are not that many new fire departments out there.”

After serving as an active member of the U.S. Air Force in Florida before joining the reserves, he worked full-time for nine years as a firefighter at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. He used his time in Texas to earn a Bachelor of Science in Emergency Administration and a Master of Science in Public Administration at the University of North Texas. He then spent 24 years in nearby Brentwood, first as a training officer and lasted as a deputy chief. His original plan was to retire from that career and find work doing something else. 

“I had always preached to my guys ‘do your education, be prepared for opportunities and don’t let an opportunity pass by,’ ” Windrow said. “So several of them came to my office when they heard this came open and asked what I was going to do. I said ‘I’m going to retire from Brentwood.’ They said, ‘well you talked a lot of smack over the years.’ They made me live up to what I told them.”

The first thing he did was to make a checklist of the tasks ahead. 

“Most of it is done. We’ve got a few things to go,” said Windrow. “My main list was 22 things that had to be done.”

Windrow initially hired nine firefighters and added a fire marshal last July. He then wrote and received a $1.1 FEMA grant to bring on six new personnel in January. That gives the department 15 full-time and 17 part-time workers plus 19 volunteers operating two active trucks. 

“Our department is second to none,” said Windrow, who also chairs the Tennessee Fire Chiefs Legislative Committee. “I’m shocked at the men and women we’ve brought in. I’ll stack them up against any firefighters in the country or fire department.”

Last year the department answered a total of 1,248 calls – an average of about 25 weekly. That’s up from 892 in 2020. 

The department also was able to locate a new fire truck at a great price to replace equipment that dated back to the 1980s. Also added was an ambulance that arrived at the end of January, plus two full-time and three part-time paramedics to benefit residents’ quality of life.

“Service is what we bring to the table,” Windrow said. “We don’t make anything or sell anything. My goal is to provide the efficient service possible.” 

Windrow said his biggest challenge was finding affordable land to build the town’s first station, for which ground is expected to break soon and hopefully be ready for service late in 2024. Next was the transition from all-volunteer to combination department.

“It’s a challenge to keep this machine well-oiled,” Windrow said. 

To save taxpayers money, Windrow has applied for five federal grants and received four worth $1.2 million so far and is awaiting word on two others. He also negotiated a partnership agreement with his former employers in Brentwood for service with each other as needed. 

“We want to be good partners with everyone around us,” Windrow said. “That’s again in the best interests of the citizens.” 

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