TX Panhandle fire departments struggling to train, field new volunteers

TX Panhandle fire departments struggling to train, field new volunteers
Volunteer fire departments are in desperate need of volunteers. (SOURCE: KFDA)

AMARILLO, TX (KFDA) - Local volunteer fire departments are in desperate need of help, struggling to acquire younger volunteers.

For the Palisades Volunteer Fire Department, Chief Dennis Massey said the department is down to six volunteers and needs more.

In February of 2011, the Palisades Volunteer Fire Department, Lake Tanglewood Volunteer Fire Department, and Timbercreek Volunteer Fire Department responded to a fire that turned 20 homes to ashes near Lake Tanglewood

Within the next few weeks, each fire department received an increase in volunteer firefighters.

Although the influx in volunteers was encouraging, volunteers slowly quit as the years went by.

“I think they would rather go skiing or fishing on the weekend you know. Of course, they had kids, so I understood, but that’s why they left,” said Chief Massey.

With a lack of volunteers, Chief Massey has had to take on most of the responsibility at the department.

“To stop doing something that you love to do is hard," said Cheif Massey. “If we could get volunteers in here to train, and to get their certifications done, and their training done, and their skills done, then I might consider stepping down.”

Timbercreek Fire Chief Eddie Wood said that the day of the 2011 fire, his department had three men respond immediately. Eventually, the rest of the department was able to help.

Although Timbercreek experienced an increase of volunteers after the fire, eventually many of them dropped out as well. Chief Wood believes it is because firefighter training changed.

“We had an influx of probably five more volunteers after the training got a little more intense. They kind of weeded themselves out,” said Chief Wood.

Stephen Craig, the Assistant Chief of the Lake Tanglewood Fire Department and Training Coordinator, said that they need more volunteers as well.

“The [Texas State Fire Marshal’s Association] dictates that you’ll have 70 hours of initial training before you’ll actually be allowed out on a fire scene in any meaningful capacity,” said Craig.

Local volunteer fire departments will provide the training and equipment, and are encouraging community members of all ages to learn about their departments.

Although volunteering does not take much time, it does take commitment.

Those looking to volunteer can pick up an application at the department they want to join.

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