South Texas Heat: The Importance of Volunteer Fire Departments
JIM WELLS COUNTY, Texas – Over the past few weeks, a very different kind of South Texas Heat has gripped local communities. Drought conditions after freezing cold fronts coupled with high winds have combined to form dangerous wildfire susceptibility throughout the entire area. Consumer burn bans were implemented but illegal burning and vehicle-related incidents have still been an issue.
Matthew J. Schmidt, a resident of Sandia, Texas, is not only a volunteer firefighter but wants to make a different impact in his community. Schmidt is currently running for Justice of the Peace, Pct. 3 (R) in Jim Wells County and has been proactively advocating not only to his community but to local, state, and federal officials on the importance of all the area’s volunteer fire departments. Wanting to shine the light on how these volunteer organizations are a part of the community, he greatly appreciates any and all support. After all, having any additional resources will give each area that much more security and peace of mind.
A reminder to the public: if you encounter a fire, STAY AWAY and contact your local authorities as quickly as possible. Doing so can save lives and property; quick reporting and response from the local emergency management departments are critical. Fires can begin and then spiral out of control incredibly quickly, so emergency response crews made up of both professionals and volunteers have been on call to serve their communities as well as surrounding areas.
The local authorities and the National Weather Service usually issue burn bans and/or Red Flag Warnings. In Jim Wells County, Texas (Alice, Ben-Bolt, Orange Grove, Premont, Sandia, and San Diego) most of the fire departments are volunteers. Of these, only Alice maintains a fire department managed under the city authority. Working together with surrounding counties and the cities within, they all unite together along with the Texas A&M Forest Service and other emergency management volunteers. These brave citizens of the community do what they can to successfully contain additional burning and prevent damage. They willingly place their own lives in jeopardy.
Jim Wells County partners with emergency management departments to provide a free resource for community members to sign up for alerts: Hyper-Reach. This service will automatically call the phone number you provide for alerts occurring around the county.
In rural counties like Jim Wells, having volunteer fire departments truly shows how its citizens take responsibility for themselves and put their neighbors’ safety first. However, without a solid budget, these volunteer fire departments have to raise their own funding throughout the year to keep operating. Even working with various towns and cities, as well as local businesses and other donors, these volunteer fire departments need support to continue. This is true all around our great country, not just here in South Texas…and has never been more important than in the current economic climate. Rising prices affect the operational needs of volunteers as well!