Volunteer Fire Depts. Need Equipment, Manpower

8-10-05 – Any given day, firefighters risk their lives for the towns they live in. More volunteer departments exist than city-funded departments, but these small departments are short on operating funds.

The Sadler, TX Volunteer Fire Department just got a truck to fight structure fires. The station’s 15 firemen have been without one since the 1965 truck died nine months ago. Luckily, they didn’t fight any fires in that time. The stories are similar across Texoma: volunteer stations scrape by on equipment and manpower.

“When you call 911, you just expect someone to come and sometimes they're so stretched for money it can be difficult to get out there,” says Traci Weaver, Urban Wildland Interface Specialist for the Texas Forest Service.

One program, the Texas Forest Service Helping Hands, finds equipment at volunteer stations that have upgraded, and delivers it into the hands of needy stations. Sadler’s truck comes from the Scurry, TX VFD. In the 8 years it’s operated, Helping Hands has moved 14.7 million dollars in equipment.

But what these fire departments need even more than equipment, are volunteers.

“Getting volunteers to take the time and get on scene is by far the most important asset or resource we can get,” says Jerry Duffield, the Pilot Point Volunteer Fire Department Chief.

Duffield is also a career fireman for the Farmer’s Branch Fire Department in the Dallas area. He says the differences in compensation for the city-backed firemen and the volunteers are night and day.

“If [volunteer firefighters] get injured, it may impact their job. They're also taking a risk to their finances and to family because if they're injured or hurt, they may or may not be getting a paycheck,” Duffield says.

The Sadler and Pilot Point Volunteer Fire Departments say the best way to support them is to come out for VFD fundraisers, and take action whenever public policy can be influenced in their favor.