Area VFD’s Receive New Lifesaving Gear

By Greg Ritchie

Messenger Reporter

HOUSTON COUNTY – Several area volunteer fire departments (VFD’s) received lifesaving gear, all due to the support and funding from Houston County Emergency Services District (ESD) #2.

Ratcliff, Belott, Weches, Pennington, Porter Springs and Weldon VFD’s all received new sets of  Amkus spreading and extraction sets, used to rescue occupants trapped in vehicles. The Messenger has noted the uptick in accidents recently, and the new equipment will allow local VFD’s to deploy the gear without having to call in other departments from elsewhere in the county. 

While many of the local firefighters are already trained on the use of the equipment, having the tools on hand will allow others to be trained to employ the equipment, which will drastically decrease the time needed to put the equipment to use, hopefully saving lives. 

Ratcliff VFD Assistant Chief Kaylie Wheeler said the department already has several members trained on the equipment and is grateful for the opportunity to put it to good use, should it be needed. 

“We were having to call Crockett Fire Department for aid, which then took extra time and an extra delay for patient care, trying to get the person out of the vehicle,” Wheeler noted. 

The tools of first responders do not come cheap, needing to be of high quality and able to resist the rigors of use for many years. In this case, each set of tools cost about $25,000. 

With a wider distribution of the tools, first responders will be able to move them into location quicker, giving life-saving minutes back to accident victims. 

It’s all part of the emergency services department’s work, according to ESD #2 Treasurer Ken Lair. 

“The Houston County ESD takes taxpayer money and uses that to fund the volunteer fire departments under the ESD coverage area,” Lair said. “We have limited taxpayer money and we’re trying to get the ‘most bang for the buck,’ but still meet their equipment needs. It’s expensive – fire trucks and gear, as well as as fuel.”

The ESD goes over department requests in their monthly meetings, trying to see where their assistance can give the biggest benefit – not always able to help, and never able to help as much as they would like.

Lair noted helping even one VFD is, in a sense, helping others, too, since the departments work together and usually several departments will respond to an incident, coordinating and working together to get a situation under control, quickly. 

The Messenger has lamented the lack of volunteers and volunteerism, in general, in our local VFD’s. Wheeler, who works as a Houston County Emergency Medical Technician, (EMT) admitted they don’t get the participation they used to, or would like, but says the department is working to change that, for the future. 

“I think everyone’s so busy and it’s kind of a dying thing,” Wheeler said. “We do a lot for the kids in our community. We do Halloween, we do an egg hunt, we have a few little junior members that get to do stuff around the station and train with us. We try to reach out to our youth, so they know how important it is to volunteer.”

Lair said our heroic first responders are people, too, who began with no experience and started learning and helping their communities. 

“I think the first thing is making people aware there is a need and we need volunteers. It’s an honor being a first responder. We hear about them and about those heroes, but it takes people to step up. If we just can communicate the need, and we provide training for them, it’s such a good way for citizens to give back to the community.”

Greg Ritchie can be reached at [email protected]

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