This is a wonderful article about our Avinger Volunteer Fire Department! Several of our Eagle Landing residents are members of the fire department.
"It Takes A Village"
written by Neil Abeles, reporter for Cass County Life,
a suppliment to the Texarkana Gazette.
Five of the 17-member Avinger Volunteer fire Department are Van Templeton and the new Eagle Landing firehouse.
shown at their station and next to the newest $120,000
pumper truck. From left, they are Cody Thibodeaux,
Van Templeton, Stinky Alford, Abigail Gaul, and Jared Crawford.
Avinger's volunteer fire department is well-equipped, well-trained, well-appreciated and well-used.
What, then, is the unit's biggest need?
"More volunteers," five members of the group agreed this week.
"We're blessed in many ways, " Van Templeton said. "Several of our members are full-time fighters. We have good training, good leadership, 21st century equipment, and for a small department, our town's fire insurance rating of a seven is good.
"But, Templeton noted, other departments in the county may only have three to five members and could use help. Avinger has about 17 volunteers.
Enough volunteers is always a problem since the need for service expands.
County volunteer fire departments and the city of Atlanta's paid-for staffed fire department are the first emergency responder for all kinds of emergencies.
Avinger's VFD had just been called out early in the morning of this interview to create a safe landing site for a helicopter rescue of a possible heart attack victim.
One of the department's newest members, Jared Crawford, 16, spoke of how he felt as a teenager responding to the late night call.
"It's long hours, hard work and lot's of responsibility, but not many 16-year-olds get to hold a charged fire hose while a helicopter filies overhead at 2 am in the morning to help a person in need," he said.
"Jared, and his friend Abigail Gaul, are the two youngest and newest members of the department, having joined within recent months. Abigail said she joined because she found herself hanging around the department and seeing it work.
Jared said he had heard his church youth pastor speak of volunteering, telling stories of the fun and responsibilities. then he spoke with his parents and they said go for it.
"So I came up on a Tuesday meeting night and asked."
Cody Thibodeaux is another new member. "I grew up around here. I know the people. No one asked me to join, but this is a way I can support my community," he said.
Membership isn't easy, Templeton said he wanted to remind the public. A lot to learn, calls at any hour or day and danger are just part of the possibilities.
The possibility of a heartbreaking personal experience is always present if an emergency involvesfriends or family.
Not everyone in a department is a first responder. About one-third of Avinger's staff is called this. It means they will attempt to be on the scene of emergency within six minutes. they will arrive even before the ambulance.
"We say that if we get there within six minutes, you have a chance of surviving. Seven minutes and you have a chance of the fire being put out. It's all about timing. If the emergency is in the downtown area, we make it easily," Templeton said.
The first responder will be ready and able to do the first job, no matter what it is. While on the way, he will have assessed in advance what to do and who is available.
This may mean breaking down a door to a fire and going in. It may mena safely moving someone with broken bones, aiding someone whio is sick or making the almost routine grass fire call.
The Avinger VFD rolled out on some 90 grass fire calls last year.
It may also mean driving 30 miles to help a neighboring community with its emergencies.
The volunteer fire department is simply 911 itself. Challenging, rewarding, necessary and demanding. So why do it?
"I don't have the answer. I just know we spend a lot of time to do the things that need to be done," Templeton said for all the Avinger volunteers.
Avinger's VFd receives lots of community support, Templeton said.
"The city pays for our gasoline and is providing 10-20 percent cost of our $120,000 pumper. The county provides some funds. Businesses and organizations help us, and we have organizations help us, and we have a lot of success with boot drivesout on the highway three or four times a year."
In a boot drive, the firemen get out at the four-way stop light stoplight on Highway 155 with buckets and boots for a few hours. Contributers give quickly and easily. But this is not the way the department funds most costs, Templeton says.
A fire tax district in which the fire department would receive tax funds is a possibility, but Templeton and Stinky alford said they are not fully convinced of its superiority.
Avinger's service area is roughly that of the school district's, but the department often finds itself often called to go over into Marion county. The area of that county has equipment but not enough personnel, Templeton said.
Such mutual assistance is highly desired and practiced, the volunteers say.
The department highly credits the Texas Forest Service with support. The gear of each department member may cost from $2,000 to $2,500. Some of Avinger's is handed down from other city departments.
Each member carries cell phones and most carry hand radios for alerting. The radios have come through Homeland Security grants and are faster for determining who and what are available.
After every outing, when the fire trucks come back, late or early in the night, the vehicles are serviced and made ready for the next call.
The equipment is kept in shape and modified by the volunteers themselves. In all, membership is a highly varied and detailed duty.
When Jared was asked the most important thing he had learned in his first several months, he replied simply, "Everything I learned seems to have been the most important. I can't choose".
A volunteer does exhibit their personal reward, however. It seems the look of satisfaction appears on that billboard as designed and placed there without costs by former resident Herb Stark. It's a look of the volunteer fire department and the town together showing their pride.