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July 04, 2024 - 00:00
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Bandera County firefighters prepare for the


The Texas summer features both wildfire season and the Fourth of July to go along with the hot and dry conditions. Bandera County firefighters are doing their job to stay both mentally and physically prepared to do their jobs.

Bandera County is home to eight fire departments and over 220 volunteers, according to Texas A&M Forest Service Fire Connect data.

The length of “fire season” can vary from year-to-year so the best way to stay on top of it is by being prepared yearround, according to Tarpley VFD’s Assistant Chief Morgan Alf.

“That’s kind of how we tend to operate, just staying prepared for it year-round,” Alf said. “Just making sure that we’ve got cases of water for our guys, so we’ve always got drinking water available in the trucks.”

Cardiac-related events have accounted for 43% of the on-duty duty fatalities over the past 10 years, according to a National Fire Protection Association report. In the general population in the U.S., about one in five people die from heart disease.

Volunteer firefighters are more responsible for their personal health and physical capabilities than a career firefighter is, according to Lakeshore VFD Chief Eric Fraser.

“Staying in shape is a personal agenda you have to have,” Fraser said. “During training we don't necessarily have the time to work on your personal strengths, you have to just be able to accomplish what the training objectives are.”

Lakeshore VFD has been able to provide an exercise area at their department for members that may not have access to a gym or exercise equipment in their homes. For Tarpley VFD, their focus was getting an extractor for their member’s gear.

These extractors are used to deep clean the firefighter’s gear following a call. They can remove the carcinogens from the gear better than anything else, according to Assistant Chief Alf.

“Our big health and safety push right now has been the cancer prevention stuff,” Alf said. “Studies have been showing that we can get cancer from a lot more things than we thought we could in the fire service.”

Lakeshore’s Fraser said that at the end of the day, the leadership is responsible for making sure all their crew is set up for success. This means making sure the crew stays hydrated and in positions they are comfortable and effective in.

“You go from 0 to 100 miles an hour of adrenaline when a call comes in, yet you still have to remain calm, professional and get the task done,” Fraser said. “If they start looking weak, we pull them out, put them in rehab and let them rest up.”

Vanderpool VFD Assistant Chief Al Buckner described a similar strategy for keeping their crew cool in the Texas summer heat.

“We’ll pull one of the trucks out and have a guy sit under a shade tree over by a rehab and we’ll bring a cooler full of water out,” Buckner said. “We switch our crews out the best we can.”

When it comes to the Fourth of July, the departments rely on word from the Fire Marshal when enforcing rules.

Community awareness is important, so everyone is on the same page when it comes to the festivities according to Fraser.

Among the 254 counties in Texas, 106 have only volunteer fire departments according to Texas Community Health News. One thing that most, if not all, have in common is a low level of funding which can limit the lengths a department can go to keep their members safe.

Departments rely on donations, grants and fundraisers to keep afloat and provide improvements and renovations to their station and equipment. Some departments require a yearly membership fee while others rely on one or two big fundraisers that they hold yearly.

For more information about local fire departments, visit https://www. fire.marshal .

Colton Gibson is a journalism major at Texas State University and a contributor to Texas Community Health News, a collaboration between the School of Journalism and Mass Communication and the university's Translational Health Research Center He hopes to work as a sports writer and broadcaster.