Volunteer firefighters are ‘unsung heroes’ of Lubbock County

Published: Jul. 7, 2022 at 10:04 PM CDT
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LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - Volunteer fire departments are responding to hundreds of calls every year, and that number is consistently growing.

Over the July 4th holiday weekend, crews responded to more than 120 fires across Lubbock County.

Idalou Fire Chief Russ Perkins highlights the importance of manpower and resources.

“You just don’t know what’s coming next,” Perkins said.

What is known, is someone is coming to help.

Volunteer firefighters go without hesitation into those unpredictable situations, risking their own safety for others.

“You’d be surprised what’s out there,” Perkins said. “When you run one of those off in a ditch or you run over an old electric motor that’s laying out there, and now you’re in the middle of it with fire all around you, it can get your attention in a short amount of time.”

As Lubbock County grows, Emergency Coordinator Clinton Thetford says those types of situations happen more often.

“The volunteer firefighters really do a service to their community, and they’re really dedicated to community,” Thetford said.

Perkins says taking responsibility for the lives of community members is part of the job.

“You’re the one in charge and you’re trying to make sure everyone goes home at the end of the day,” Perkins said. “That’s a whole different level of what’s taking place, driving an inch and a half through the front door or running that red line on the back of that truck for a grass fire.”

That’s why Thetford calls these volunteers unsung heroes.

He says the county has between 250 and 300 volunteer firefighters right now, but during high risk events like Red Flag days or the Fourth of July weekend, more can be needed.

“On the Fourth of July weekend they had some where they were on one or two fires and they had three or four more calls that they were, as soon as they cleared one, they went straight to the other one,” Thetford said.

Working that high number of fires in a short amount of time can strain manpower.

“That volume is overwhelming,” Perkins said. “There’s no doubt about it. When you get into those situations where you’ve got 20 calls and they’re just boom boom boom back to back - it can get really tough and as warm and hot as it was, it’s tough on firemen.”

It’s not just manpower that’s needed to douse the flames. The proper equipment is crucial.

Perkins says the Idalou department has benefited from ARPA funds in that category, allowing the department to buy new helmets, masks and bunker gear, along with other expensive equipment, but he says help is always welcome.

“There are never enough volunteer firemen in my opinion,” Perkins said. “Whether it’s man or woman, there is always something that someone can do with their department.”

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