Goliad County volunteer fire departments are experiencing a shortage in firefighters at the worst time.
With the current drought conditions creating a higher risk for grass fires and increasing the number of calls, volunteer fire departments are finding themselves stretched thin in available firefighters.
“We have so far responded to over double the amount of calls that we did last year,” said Justin Stauss, Ander-Weser VFD assistant chief. “We are on track to double or possibly even triple the amount of calls we had last year.”
Goliad County volunteer fire departments have been called to assist other departments in adjacent counties more than usual due to the dry conditions.
“We have had a bunch of mutual aid calls,” Stauss said.
Ander-Weser VFD has 17 volunteers considered as active responders.
“Having an employer that understands is an important thing,” said Stauss, who is a third-generation Ander-Weser volunteer firefighter. “If you are a plant worker, you can’t just jump up and leave your job. We get afternoon calls, night calls, weekend calls. Maybe some can just volunteer on weekends. We call them our ‘Weekend Warriors.’ It’s certainly helpful to have those people as well.”
Stauss said it is a challenge to get younger volunteers.
“We just don’t have that many younger folks in our area,” Stauss said.
Extensive training is available for new volunteers.
“All of it’s paid for,” Stauss said. “The only thing we can’t reimburse a trainee for is their time. Everything else is covered. We can give them every kind of training that they want.”
Goliad County commissioners have discussed the possibility of creating a fire marshal position.
“Goliad County is always one of the last counties to put in a burn ban during a drought,” Stauss said. “One reason the commissioners have said they hesitate putting in a burn ban is because the county doesn’t have anyone to enforce it. With a fire marshal, you can enforce it.”
Stauss said some residents do not choose to adhere to burn bans.
“There is one particular property that we’ve been at like six times this year,” Stauss said. “They burned in wrong winds or they made a minor mistake. You have to draw a line and say, ‘Hey, guys. Maybe let’s just stop for now.’ ”
Stauss said he can find a place for anyone to assist in his department.
“Some might not want to deal with the trauma of vehicle accidents. They don’t have to respond to those,” Stauss said. “Maybe firefighting is not your thing. You could be a secretary or treasurer for our meetings. Maybe someone can just come to the department and mow the grass. It would take the burden off someone else. That would be fantastic.”
For more information on assisting the Ander-Weser VFD, email email@example.com.