VFDs fill rural need

Published 4:00 am Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Brewton Fire Chief Lawrence Weaver remembers when the municipal fire department responded to rural calls — without the benefit of a volunteer department stepping in first.
“I’ve been around doing this for 37 years,” Weaver said. “I can clearly recall a time when our department answered fire calls all throughout the rural areas around the county.”
Weaver said the distance to some calls made saving property difficult — if not impossible.
“We’ve answered calls out at Barnett’s Crossroads and even up toward Andalusia over the years,” Weaver said. “The only problem is that sometimes we didn’t get to the call fast enough. We might be able to save a barn or a pump house, but sometimes a house would be on the ground or be so far gone you couldn’t stop it. That was the bad part about answering those calls that far out.”
Weaver said as population increased in rural areas, volunteer fire department groups began to appear.
“I don’t recall just how long ago they started, but we started seeing volunteer fire departments pop up out in the rural areas,” Weaver said. “Those departments were necessary to help save property and lives.”
Weaver said the beginning stages of volunteer fire departments in the area were filled with growing pains.
“When they first started out these departments didn’t have much, if any, money,” Weaver said. “They didn’t have a lot of equipment, but they had dedicated people who wanted to help their neighbors.”
Although some volunteer fire departments are very active and provide good service to the community, Weaver said that wasn’t always the case.
“These departments did the best they could with what they had,” Weaver said. “We continued to offer our assistance in those areas where the department hadn’t grown much.”
Weaver said his department still offers assistance to volunteer departments when they are needed.
“We still answer the call for help from volunteer departments,” Weaver said. “That’s just the nature of firefighting. We don’t have to call on volunteers to help us very often, but when we do they respond. We call on them and they help us, so when they call on us we help them.”
Volunteer fire department personnel has gone from being the next door neighbor with little knowledge on how to fight a fire to a group of personnel certified in firefighting techniques.
“We have seen so many departments grow in size and in knowledge,” Weaver said. “We have watched departments grow in training and grow in a what that has them doing a pretty good job for the communities they serve. These firefighters go out in all types of weather and perform a service for their neighbors and, they do it for no pay.”
Volunteer fire departments around the county are currently recruiting new members for the departments with a great need for volunteers in each area.
To see how to become a volunteer for a community-based volunteer fire department, contact the department chief or any member of the volunteer personnel. Information may also be found by contacting any municipal fire department or the Escambia County Volunteer Fire Department Association staff.

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