When you see flames shooting from a house, a car, or a business, you know someone's got to put the fire out. Do you ever stop to think who it'll be? Quite often, it's a volunteer fire fighter, someone who enters burning buildings, risking their life, in exchange for a pat on the back instead of a paycheck.
"You gotta want to do it," volunteer fireman Brian Smith says. "You gotta have a heart for it and a desire to help people."
Fire fighting can be a scary, dangerous, and tiresome job, but volunteers haven't always gotten respect for doing it.
"They call us 'wannabes' or whatever," Smith says. "That kinda stops when we wind up out there at their house, saving their house or their property. Then it's, 'Thank you, and I appreciate ya'll.'"
Volunteers go through the same training as paid fire fighters, but they mainly rely on grants and fundraisers to operate. They haven't always gotten the same type of high quality equipment as paid departments, but that's slowly changing for the better.
Hudson Volunteer Fire Department president Robert Smith says, "Over the years, it has changed tremendously. I think there's great respect now for the volunteer fire department, due to training and equipment [that is] equal to the paid departments."
When you're a volunteer fire fighter, your job doesn't stop just because your shift is over. Whether there's a kitten trapped in a tree or a three-alarm inferno, volunteer firefighting is a 24/7 job. It's also a job that's rewarding 365 days a year.
There are plenty of volunteer fire departments in East Texas, including nine in Angelina County. If you'd like to join, drop in on a Monday night meeting at the Hudson Volunteer Fire Department on Highway 94. The meetings start at 7:00 p.m.