Why be an Oklahoma volunteer firefighter?

Thursday, December 29th 2005, 10:33 am
By: News On 6

Dry conditions this fall have fueled many fires, most of which are fought by volunteers. Who are these volunteers and where do they come from?

News on 6 reporter Rick Wells says when we call for a fire truck it may come from your neighborhood fire station, but out in the county, the nearest volunteer fire department might be miles away.

David Kennedy is a volunteer firefighter with the Rock Volunteer Fire Department in Osage County. His real job is mechanic. Just happens he's trying to get the pump going on a fire truck. When there's a fire he drops his tools and picks up a hose. "Most of the time I leave the door wide open and I'm out.”

He says he does it because he likes helping people. Most everyone fighting the grass fires this fall are volunteers like David Kennedy and they're doing it for the same reason he is.

Charlie Pearson is the Chief of the Rock Volunteer Fire Department. He says volunteers like David Kennedy are special folks. "You gotta be dedicated, willing to get up in the middle of the night when there's ice on the road and snow and go help your neighbor."

Rick Wells: "Do you just call up and say I want to be a firefighter?"

Charlie Pearson: "We have applications that we take."

And he says they are lucky. They have 32 dedicated firefighters now and a waiting list of more who would like to be. The pay for all of them is the same, nothing. He laughs and says they vote themselves a pay raise periodically so they can say they got one. It's not people but equipment that's the issue for most of these departments.

Charlie Pearson tells the News on 6, it's incredible how many people, despite the burn ban, will think they can burn just a small pile of trash or leaves. He says it's frightening how quickly a tiny fire can become a big problem.