GRAPEVINE – With summer approaching, water safety is an important issue.

After losing one of their own last year, the Grapevine Fire Department is hoping a new program will help save lives.

“It’s as simple as putting this jacket on and you’ll get to go home and have another day,” said fire Chief Darrell Brown.

To help prevent drownings, the city of grapevine will launch the “loan a life jacket” program in memory of firefighter James McKenzie who died last summer at Grapevine Lake.

The 30-year-old, who was off duty at the time, was boating when he and a friend jumped into the water to swim to shore. McKenzie never made it.

“We don’t know what happened to James, we don’t know why he’s not here with us today,” Brown said. “But we know he drowned and he could have put on a life vest and still been here.”

On average, two to three people die each year at grapevine lake, brown said, adding that just this Sunday, a 23-year-old man drowned in these waters.

“We want to make sure people are safe,” he said. “Take those swim lessons, learn how to save yourself, wear a life preserver when you’re enjoying the lake.”

Life jacket stations will be put up starting Memorial Day. Using the honor system, people can borrow the donated life vests if they need one, are asked to return it when done. According to Texas Parks & Wildfire (, a life vest must be available for all passengers of the vessel, and are mandatory for children age 13 and under. Each occupant must wear a life jacket when using personal watercraft such as a jet ski or water bike.

Chief Brown hopes the small gesture will have big results.

“It was the least thing that we could do to try to never forget (James),” he said. “If they leave the lake safe, he saved another life.”