Volunteer fire departments lack state funding

According to the U.S. Fire Administraion there are 1,435 registered fire departments in Texas, of those, nearly 72 percent are volunteer.

There's paid fire departments and then there's volunteer. But according to Fire Chief Richard Lake, the training and certifications the two deparments receive aren't different, the main difference is volunteer stations receive no funding from the state.

"Most of the time volunteer fire departments don't have the political support that they really need to be able to function," Lake said.

Most of the of the volunteer fire departments in the Panhandle are in rural areas. They depend on community donations and large fundraisers or not much will get done. Right now, paid firefighters must attend the fire academy, pass state exams and receive their certification from the Texas Commission on Fire Protection. According to Lake, volunteer firefighters study the same material and take the same exams but they pay for it on their own.

"Your finding now that instructors are certified, the members are becoming certified in their areas such as firefighter basics, firefighter wild land." Lake said. "Those certifications are now available and you see a lot of volunteer departments that are trained and equipped well enough that they are achieving those certifications."

Whether paid or volunteer, every firefighter must have the basic certification in order to ride in their station truck which takes a minimum of 110 hours of training but it can vary by department.

Potter County Fire Department has been fortunate to receive funds the past few years and limit the amount of fundraisers, but what about those departments that depend on fundraisers to up their house?

Washburn and Claude Fire Department are both complete volunteer stations. They partnered to put together a 5K run to help their stations with the most basic necessities.

"Really fire departments have a hard time." Armstring Fire Coordinator, Craig Thomas said. "A lot of times they depend solely on fundraisers. Sometimes they can get grants but those grants are specific as to what they can be used for, and there's always that day-to-day that fire fighters have."

For Lake he said his men may be volunteers but they're the most dedicated men he's worked with.

"Fires don't discriminate as to whether your paid of volunteer so you have to have a very well and very well equipped department to be able to do the job we do," he said.