Volunteer Fire Departments Save Lives, But Keeping Them Is Hard Work - KTRE.com | Lufkin and Nacogdoches, Texas

11/06/04 - East Texas

Volunteer Fire Departments Save Lives, But Keeping Them Is Hard Work

Richard Brunk of the Zavalla Volunteer Fire Department said, "a neighbor said they saw flames coming from the wooden structure and he called 911."

If it wasn't for area volunteer fire departments, the wait for help could have been as much as thirty minutes. That's the time it would have taken the closest department that has people on standby to get there all the way from Lufkin.

Brunk said, "none of the volunteer fire departments here in the county really has anybody that stays at their station, we're all volunteers and that kinda slowed our response time a little bit cause we were all coming from our houses and stuff."

With Saturday being the first day of hunting season, it's a shot in the dark, if the volunteers will be close at hand.

"Yeah, first day of hunting season, kinda hard to find people," said Brunk.

Volunteers sometimes have to leave paying jobs to fight fires, an unpaid job for these hard workers. And managing a budget funded almost exclusively by the community is tough. Especially with equipment that can run up to hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Curtis Shoemaker of the Central Volunteer Fire Department said, "the bunker gear, the pants, coat, new boots, helmets for everyone. We'll be getting several new airpacks. Stuff like that's expensive."

The Central Volunteer Fire Department recently received a grant of about $110,000 to buy some new equipment. Without federal grants like that for equipment, and community support for day to day expenses, there would be no volunteer fire departments.

"We buy our gas, our oil. We buy our trucks with their support. We're 100% funded by the community," said Shoemaker.

It's with community support that they survive, and with many communities 30-minutes or more away from major fire departments, the communities need them.

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