By Megan Wehring
KYLE — Santa will not be making his appearance on a fire truck this year in Kyle.
The Kyle Fire Department (KFD) will not be conducting its neighborhood Santa rides this year because of staffing issues, increased overtime hours and burnout. This will be the second year in a row that KFD can not do the rides.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has put a huge strain on staffing for our department this fiscal year,” KFD wrote in a Facebook post on Monday, “and the sad fact is that we simply cannot logistically make the Santa rides happen. We know this will be disappointing to some and we do apologize, but we hope that you can understand. Responding to emergencies and ensuring the safety of our community and our citizens is always going to be our number one priority as your fire department.”
Staff have already been working extra hours and the department cannot afford to bring in even more overtime, according to Fire Chief Kyle Taylor.
“We spent about four times our budgeted amount on overtime just because there are guys out with COVID, we are doing shot clinics or testing,” Taylor said. “We budgeted like $85,000 for overtime last year and we ended up closer to $400,000.”
The Santa rides were a holiday tradition that many young residents and residents young at heart looked forward to every year. But the community is supportive of the department’s decision.
“Thankfully, everybody has been extremely understanding and supportive this year,” said Bailey Bakouris, community outreach specialist. “We are all going through similar stuff and it was refreshing to see that on our Facebook post. We appreciated that with the community.”
Taylor said the department is planning on some kind of holiday event for the community next year. In the meantime, he suggests families visit Mary Kyle Hartson Park for the city’s 25 Days of Christmas festivities.