Volunteer Fire Departments of Texomaland

FEMA’s National Fire Department Registry estimates in Oklahoma, that 81.6% of fire departments are volunteer fire departments. In Texas, that percentage is 70.1. Only one Texomaland county reflects those percentages. The other three Texomaland county’s percentages vary. The fact remains that Texomaland relies heavily on volunteer fire departments. 

In Bryan County, Oklahoma, 15 out of 31 fire departments are volunteer (48.4%), and out of Marshall County’s 10 fire departments (80%), 8 are volunteer. In Cooke County, Texas, 17 out of 18 fire departments are volunteer (94.4%). Grayson County, Texas, has 37 fire departments, of which 19 are volunteer (51.3%). 

How Much Funding Does a Volunteer Fire Department Need? 

When we look at all the equipment needed to protect rural communities and towns from fire emergencies, recruiting firefighters, education and training of firefighters, and funding sources, fire departments require a huge budget. Volunteer fire departments and their firefighters spend 60% of their time fundraising. That is not time spent firefighting, but more time away from their families to raise money to fund the department.  

In June 2022, a fire truck cost anywhere from $200,000 to $800,000. Bunker gear, also called turnout gear, fire kit, or incident gear, is the personal protective equipment (PPE) firefighters wear on the job. Firefighting PPE cost between $4,000 and $5,000 in 2022. Departments must carry expensive insurance, and fund building and fire truck maintenance.  

A fire department’s insurance coverage includes property insurance, general liability coverage, accident insurance, auto insurance, management liability coverage, and more. They also have to pay for equipment maintenance and run the department like a business. That takes an office management team with financial management skills. 

Volunteer Firefighter’s Time on the Job

Career firefighters typically work 48-hour shifts, and they sleep at the fire station. They are called into action at any time during this period. Some paid firefighters work 10 to 12-hour shifts for three to four consecutive days. Others work 15-hour shifts, then replaced by a fresh 15-hour shift. This rounds out to approximately a 56-hour work week.

Volunteer firefighters do not sleep at their fire station. According to firefighternow.com, a volunteer firefighter might expect to spend between 24 and 72-hours in firefighting work. That comes to between 6 to 18 hours per week. Many volunteer firefighters hold down full-time and part-time jobs. No matter how you skin that animal, these unpaid hours boil down to an extreme dedication to a dangerous job. 

How Do Volunteer Fire Departments (VFDs) Raise Money?

In 2016, Sarah Rafique and Josie Musico, of the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, reported, ”A rack of yellow firefighter jumpsuits line the wall at the volunteer fire department in Spur. They’re hand-me-downs from Lubbock Fire Rescue. Still, Spur Fire Chief Reid Arnold showed a hint of pride as he described their equipment and fire truck, a retired U.S. Army vehicle that was painted red. Two of the department’s other tanker and rescue trucks came from [u.s.] Forest Service grants.”

VFDs operate in rural communities and grapple to stay in the financial red because of smaller city and county tax bases. Some cities and counties add a stipend to their annual budgets for volunteer fired department operation. Grants come from various sources. Fund raising contributes to a large source of financing. 

However, grant writing is a lengthy process, which requires skill, and many volunteer fire chiefs do not have the education to apply for grants. Unlike tax-based paid fire departments, VFDs do not have the money to hire a grant writer. Grants are available from federal and state governments, corporate foundations, and charitable foundations.  

Some VFDs hold two to three fundraisers a month just to put gas in the fire truck. Most people are familiar with fire department “Fill the Boot” fundraisers. Other examples of VFD fundraisers include adult and junior training camps, car and dog washes, online campaigns, pancake breakfasts, pizza parties, and spaghetti dinners, raffles, and selling t-shirts, ball caps, and custom calendars.

Recruiting Volunteer Firefighters

Since donating skills and unpaid hours of time to such a needed and dangerous community service requires great sacrifices of volunteer firefighters, recruitment of volunteer firefighters is crucial. Volunteer firefighters are called away from their families, jobs, sleep, and personal time. They do not sleep at their firehouse, so they take an extra step to get to fire emergencies. 

Fewer young people today want to donate their time to volunteer for VFDs, and volunteer firefighters are aging out of the industry. Volunteer firefighters can and do use their training to become a career firefighter. Training requirements for volunteer and paid fighters are typically similar. The difference is that paid firefighters may need certification from different government agencies than volunteers. 

In Texas, career firefighters must be certified under the Texas Commission on Fire Protection. Texas volunteers can obtain their certification from the State Firefighters & Fire Marshals Association. According to data from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), one-third of firefighters who are in communities that have a population of fewer than 2,500 are at least age 50, and another 21% are in their 40s. 

Recruiting new volunteer firefighters using traditional recruiting methods is proving ineffective today to the extent that they were previously effective. In the past, volunteers readily came to the VFD. Recruiting used to be a pep talk. Also, generational volunteer firefighting families have decreased. Now, the need has arisen for VFD chiefs to adapt to marketing their departments. 

Kevin D. Quinn, volunteer firefighter of the firehouse.com blog, reported on April 1, 2020, “Today, it’s essential to not only sell your pride and the worthiness of your fire department but sell to the community that you’re a volunteer fire service and that you seek quality candidates to join your ranks. These things no longer are common knowledge in the community, which makes marketing the key to success. 

“You must learn to tap into the social media outlets and to capitalize on new ways to sell your department to prospective candidates. If you don’t have the skill set to use social media and other new forms of marketing to promote your department, then you must enlist someone who does. We need to move into the modern age if we’re going to attract the next generation of volunteer firefighters.”

Kevin D. Quinn joined the fire service in 1976. He is the Rhode Island director on the National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC) and served as chair and first vice chair of the council. He retired as a deputy chief of the Union Fire District in South Kingstown, Rhode Island, and returned to where he began in the volunteer fire service—actively responding to fires and alarms with his original Station #3 of the Union Fire District.

The previous excerpt came from a larger supplement titled Recruiting and Retaining: The Future of Volunteer Fire Departments. You can read the entire 20-page National Volunteer Fire Council supplement created from its inaugural conference, held in September 2022 in Mesa, Arizona.

The recruiting future is not bleak according to Sarah Lee, the deputy chief executive of NVFC in 2022. Sarah Lee manages the NVFC’s recruitment and retention initiatives, including the SAFER-funded “Make Me A Firefighter” campaign. The NVFC conducted research into volunteer recruitment and retention in 2015. 

The NVFC research study found that people aged 18 to 34 were significantly interested in volunteering, minorities were as interested as Caucasians, and even though women comprise 4.5% of paid and volunteer firefighters, women attracted to the firefighting vocation are as interested in volunteering as much as men. 

Firefighting is a field in which lives depend on the firefighter’s skill and experience, and that poses a daunting responsibility. Prospective recruits may lack confidence in their abilities to take on such a dynamic set of duties. That does not mean volunteer firefighter recruits lack capabilities to take on the responsibilities. 

How Can You Support Your Local Volunteer Fire Department?

As Kevin Quinn noted, today’s communities are less aware of their VFDs and what their VFDs need in terms of support. The job of a firefighter also comes with consequential trauma from grave fire casualties, just like police officers and combat military personnel. It is vital for communities to support their VFDs. VFDs not only need financial resources, they need emotional support from their communities and to know their communities care about them. 

People can assist their VFD in non-emergency tasks of their VFD, which frees up firefighters and EMS personnel to focus on training, response activities, and maintenance responsibilities. Communities can help with organizing VFD fundraisers. If individuals have the time or are retired but active, there are several things they can do for their local VFDs. 

Firefighters still receive calls to rescue pets and wild birds, not only clichéd cats stuck in trees. Train to become an animal rescue volunteer from a participating animal shelter or organization. Take a CPR certification class to learn to handle medical emergencies that don’t require invasive medical treatment and let your VFD know.

Especially in Texomaland, you can take a water rescue technician or water safety course, earn certification, and volunteer your services. Ask your VFD for a tour of their fire station for your children, youth activity group, or your school. This shows your local VFD that you want to teach your children about fire safety and fire hazards. 

Find out if your VFD has a local “Adopt a Fire Station” initiative, and find out what you can do to help. "Adopt-a-Fire-Station" initiatives invite residents and businesses to donate time, money, or other gifts to local fire stations with the goal of helping first responders who serve their communities. Or, just simply ask your VFD what they need or how you can help. Above all, if possible, attend your local VFD fundraisers. 

Firefighting Fun Facts:

  • Benjamin Franklin established the first all-volunteer community fire company in Philadelphia in 1736.
  • A firefighter needs a minimum of 100 hours of training before entering a burning building.
  • It takes less than two minutes for firefighters to put on their PPE gear. 
  • The weight of firefighter gear averages 45 to 120 pounds, including boots, pants, coat, gloves, hood, and mask.
  • Most house fires start in the kitchen. 
  • In the U.S., about 6,000 women are full-time career firefighters, but around 40,000 women work in the firefighting field. 
  • Molly Williams was the first recorded woman to serve as a firefighter in an official capacity in New York City in 1815. She was also one of the first African Americans to serve as an official firefighter as well. Benjamin Aymar, who was associated with Oceanus Engine Company #11, owned her. During the blizzard of 1818, there were very few male firefighters available due to influenza. Molly stepped up and practically was doing all the work herself, trudging through the snow with the fire pump to emergencies. Nowadays, most firefighters are still men 
  • From 1603 until 1867, Japanese firefighters fought fires in a “different” kind of way. They wet themselves with hoses so they would be less flammable, causing their uniforms to weigh up to 75 pounds. They used hooks on poles to try to pull the buildings down and smother the fire. They believed preventing the fire from spreading was more important than saving the burning structure itself. Only 5% of all recorded fires which happened in Japan for centuries resulted in death, seemingly proving their methods.
  • Dalmatians are the iconic fire dog because dalmatians get along well with horses. Before the fire truck, firefighters used horse-drawn carriages. Dalmatians were adept at protecting the carriage and equipment while the firefighters were performing their duties and able to run alongside their carriages for lengthy periods of time. Nowadays, the dalmatian has shifted its role to more of a companion, obviously due to technological upgrades over the years.


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GOOD. Water normal stained; 65 degrees; 2.55 feet below pool. Striped bass fishing is good with gulls working active fish around main lake river ledges in 60-70 feet of water. Drift live shad or flukes suspended 30-40 feet down. Largemouth and smallmouth bass are fair on live shad along the bluffs, and the main lake points off the banks. Swimbaits are landing catches off the boulders and on the clay banks. Catfish are good, drifting large cut shad chunks along deep flats off the river channels in 50-60 feet of water. Bigger fish will start to move shallower with colder water temperatures. Crappie are slow on jigs and minnows fishing brush in 10-15 feet of water and around docks. Report by Jacob Orr, Lake Texoma Guaranteed Guide Service. Striped bass are good with daily limits under the birds. Fish midlake schools with slabs, swimbaits and live bait. There is some deadstick action. Report by John Blasingame, Adventure Texoma Outdoors.

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