Volunteer firefighters provide safety net for rural areas

Texico Volunteer Fire Department Chief Lewis Cooper said his members perform their roles as volunteers for personal enjoyment and for their community. (Staff photo: Eric Kluth)

Tonya Garner: CNJ staff writer

The 9-1-1 report said the caller was “bleeding profusely.”
Texico Volunteer Fire Department Chief Lewis Cooper said he and fellow firefighters rushed to the scene expecting the worst.

“We got there and found a woman who had a bloody finger,” he said, laughing, “she had hit it on something and her cuticle was bleeding.”

Cooper said the firefighters administered first aid and advised her to see her doctor to prevent infection.

Such is the life of the rural volunteer firefighter, who is often the only emergency help available within 20 or 30 miles.

Clovis, Cannon and Portales have paid firefighters — but other surrounding regions depend on volunteers to respond to fires and health emergencies.

Melrose Volunteer Fire Department Chief Kenny Jacobs worked for the Portales Fire Department and now works for the railroad.

“They (volunteers) all have day jobs. Most employers understand and let them leave,” when paged, he said.

Volunteer firefighters donate their efforts for personal enjoyment and to give back to their community, Cooper said.

Volunteer Fire Chief of Floyd Leland Terry said most of the department’s 16 volunteers work in the farm industry; and “many have family members who’ve been in the fire department,” he said.

Terry said his community had only one structure fire this year.

“No one was home, it was a total loss,” Terry said.

Fields Volunteer Fire Chief Cody Moberly said structure fires are rare.

“We see a house fire about once every 10 years — but we could see as many as five a night when there is lightning,” Fields said.

Cooper said the worst fire he remembered was when a grain elevator was consumed by flames. “That was one long, hard day,” he said.

In addition to fires, accidents and emergencies, rural fire departments field public services calls, which can mean just giving a neighbor a helping hand, such as an elderly person who has fallen.

“We just help them up and check them over,” Cooper said.
Volunteers do more than respond to scenes and assist people, Terry said.

The Floyd volunteer firefighters get involved in local cookouts, school functions and host annual Christmas parties, Terry said.

“We also put our trucks in the Border Town Parade,” Cooper said. “We enjoy showing off our equipment because we are proud of it.”

Terry said volunteers spend a lot of time training as well as working in the field.

“Volunteers show up to meetings and training sessions. They get tested and retested. It’s hard to keep up with all the requirements,” Terry said.

Curry and Roosevelt County volunteer fire departments rely on government funding and donations, according to volunteer fire chiefs.

Clovis Fire Department Chief Ray Westerman said he meets quarterly with all six chiefs of Curry County volunteer fire departments. He said they have a mutual aid agreement to share personnel and equipment, as needed.

Curry County Volunteer fire departments call for the aid of Clovis EMT’s and fireman about two times a week, Westerman said.

“My hat is off to the volunteer firefighter,” Westerman said.

CNJ staff writer Andy Jackson contributed to this report.