Volunteer Firefighters Put Their Lives On The Line

It doesn't take much to spark a fire in the August heat, but it can take hours on end of strength, quick thinking, and determination to put one out.  In Archer County, it's volunteers who put their lives on the line to douse the flames.

Grass fires have become a familiar sight in some parts of Texoma over the past two weeks.  At least half a dozen fire departments have battled two blazes in Archer County.  Both left hundreds of acres charred.

Not a single city fire department in the county has paid firefighters.  When a blaze starts, the men and women who fight it are often leaving their day jobs to help the community.

"When the alarm goes off, hopefully there are enough people that are in a stage of their work during the day where they can take off and go," said Windthorst Volunteer Fire Chief Pete Wolf.

His assistant, Marvin Geis says employers are helpful in fighting fires when they let their employees leave to battle a blaze.

"A lot of people around town are pretty good if their hands can be turned loose, they'll let them turn loose because you never know when this'll be on your land," he said.

Emergency Coordinator Kelly DeSautel can't say enough good things about the volunteer firefighters in Archer County.  He used to be one, so he can appreciate what they go through.

"When you're talkin' in fire gear and stuff like that out there fightin' the fire, with the heats the way they are today, man, that takes a lot of strength out of a person and it's a lot of endurance," he said.

"I think it goes back definitely to community pride, helpin' out everyone in the community, wanting to do something to give back to the community," Wolf said.

In Windthorst, the community gives back, too.  Although the Volunteer Fire Department gets some grants from the state, most of it's money for trucks, equipment, and station needs comes from fundraisers.

"Anytime that we have a need or that we see there's something we need to do, the community buys into it wholeheartedly," Wolf said.

The Windthorst Volunteer Fire Department uses a nomination system to make sure candidates for firefighter have what it takes.  If you ask DeSautel, he would say all the volunteers in Windthorst, Archer City, Scotland, Bowman, Holliday, and Lakeside City, think of others before themselves.

"You can't thank them people as much as you think you can.  They're incredible people.  And that's what it takes to be a volunteer," he said.

"Oh it's a good feeling.  I guess that's why we do what we do for free," Geis said.

A station like Windthorst's has seven trucks and 24 firefighters to respond to blazes both in and out of town.  Chief Wolf says the mixture of young volunteers and seasoned veterans is a perfect combination.

To work as a firefighter at a paid department, a candidate has to be commissioned, but even at a volunteer department, firefighters go through training from the Texas Forest Service and the Firefighters and Fire Marshals Association.

Spencer Blake, Newschannel 6