While large cities and small towns in Denton County have their localized police and fire departments to respond to emergencies, unincorporated parts of the county rely on county services as well as services from neighboring municipalities.
Unincorporated areas are those parts of the county that lie outside a municipality. These areas, such as Lantana, haven’t been annexed into any of its neighboring cities and towns for one reason or another.
“With Lantana, it’s unincorporated, and we really don’t have any agreements with any government entity of Lantana [to service them],” Denton County Sheriff Tracy Murphree said. “We’re responsible for it, and it’s a huge challenge because [Lantana] is a city in and of itself. We have contract deputies in Copper Canyon, and they can help in Lantana as well, but it’s not the only unincorporated part we’re responsible for. We don’t have patrol guys constantly there because they’re responding to other calls.”
Murphree said the Denton County Sheriff’s Office divides the county into four quadrants, and they have deputies assigned to sectors. The Sheriff’s Office’s only base in the county is in the city of Denton, but Murphree said they can use other buildings around the county to work out of.
The 65 patrol deputies on the roster are separated into three shifts to cover the 24-hour day. Murphree said the weight to respond to emergencies around the county diminishes as municipalities mainly rely on their own local law enforcement and emergency services.
He said those northern parts of the county have seen a lot of growth, yet they still haven’t been incorporated into neighboring municipalities.
“As far as emergency services, our responsibility is we contract with local jurisdictions to provide fire and EMS,” said Roland Asebedo, the Denton County fire marshal. “The fire trucks and ambulances reach out and provide services in unincorporated parts of the county. They make an agreement with the county each year to provide service in those areas. And each one of the jurisdictions — there are districts assigned to jurisdictions — split up based on who can provide the nearest emergency service.”
That split is based on the unincorporated jurisdiction’s population and the number of 911 calls the responding agency accepted from the area the previous year.
“Each quarter, they write a check based on the number of calls they have made that are approved calls in their district,” Asebedo said. “Right now for fire, it’s an annual amount they’re given each year. One is a standard, for fire protection it’s $10,000 up front. They receive $600 for each approved fire call.”
This sharing of services goes for municipalities as well.
“Ponder may have a fire department, but their EMS in Ponder is provided by Krum because Krum runs an ambulance service, and Ponder runs an advanced life support engine, but they just don’t transport,” Asebedo said.
Although Denton County is home to about 833,822 people, per the U.S. Census Bureau, and houses a multitude of cities and towns, the county Sheriff’s Office isn’t always taking calls from all over.
“If you’re looking into the areas of the county that are mostly incorporated into cities, like Lewisville and Carrollton, we have fewer calls because we have less responsibility there,” Murphree said. “But in the northern part [of the county], a lot of it is unincorporated, so a majority of our calls are in the northern part of the county and Lantana.”