Passing on a blessing
By PATRICK LESTER
To many, the sight inside the Midway Fire Co. station in Lahaska on Saturday may have looked like nothing more than piles of old, worn out fire-fighting gear. To Klieta Bagwell, it was a vast treasure trove.
Bagwell fought back tears after she and Steve Bison, both of the Cherokee River Indian Community in Moulton, Ala., arrived at the Bucks County fire station to pick up hand-me-down equipment they hope will help turn their fledgling fire company into a professional outfit.
The Midway firefighters donated enough used jackets, helmets, boots and other gear to outfit 15 firefighters of the newly formed Cherokee River Volunteer Fire Co., which will serve an Indian reservation in the Bankhead National Forest and surrounding communities.
It was a goodwill gesture - ultimately made possible by the donors who support the Midway firefighters - that brought together two volunteer fire-fighting groups living more than 900 miles apart.
"We're very, very fortunate," said Bagwell, who lives on the reservation in a mountainous area between Birmingham and Huntsville. "It is a blessing from the Creator."
The reservation sits on 40 acres in the Bankhead National Forest that hundreds of years ago served as a refuge for American Indians. The land was deeded to the United States after the Battle of Horseshoe Bend in 1814. Members of the Cherokee River Indian Community acquired the 40 acres several years ago.
The Bucks County and Alabama fire companies got acquainted through a chance encounter in cyberspace. Midway firefighter Dave Shapp was given the job of sorting through the department's unused equipment. He and fellow firefighters put a few of those items on e-Bay with a note attached saying they were looking to donate to a needy fire company. By Shapp's estimate, the donated equipment, which is anywhere from two to 20 years old, would cost about $35,000 if bought new.
The Cherokee River group, which up until now has had to train and fight fires in street clothes, jumped at the opportunity to bring home the gear. Another Alabama fire company donated a 1966 pumper truck. A Maryland department donated a 1974 vehicle that is not yet usable, but in the midst of getting repaired.
They're now well on their way to establishing fire-fighting and ambulance services in Moulton, a town of a little more than 3,000 people.
The Cherokee River department already has about a dozen volunteers training three times a week with other, more established companies in Alabama. Bison, the chief of the department, is hopeful the group can be fully certified to fight fires by this summer. "I'm learning as fast as I can," said Bison, who also serves as the police chief, public safety officer and vice chairman of the Cherokee River Indian Community.
He said the fire service is sorely needed in the community. Unlike Bucks County, where volunteers usually arrive at fires within minutes after they start, people in Moulton have little hope of saving their homes when fires start. The nearest fire companies are about 15 miles away.
When firefighters finally do make it to a blaze, they normally don't spray a drop of water on it, Bagwell said. They are there to make sure everyone gets out safe and that the fire doesn't spread.
Members of the Midway Fire Co. want to eventually pay a visit to their friends in Alabama. In fact, fire police Capt. John Reinhardt and his wife, Mary, planned to haul some of the equipment out to Alabama in their pickup truck.
Hugh Hager, Midway's deputy chief, said Saturday's donation was a credit to the people who support the fire company.
"We're lucky to live in an affluent area and we can afford to buy the better stuff," he said.
Although they're not passing on the stuff because of a grant award, still a nice story to share, and remind the rest of us that there's always someone worse off. Way back when I was going to put a page on my web site so folks needing stuff could post, and folks wanting to donate stuff could make direct contacts, but no sense in re-inventing the wheel, Helping Our Own has it covered. The fewer places trying to do the same thing of this sort, the better, in my book anyway. Less chances of things getting missed, less overhead, more equipment getting to where it needs to go in a shorter period of time.
Don't forget, only 26 days until the grant deadline. And 264 days until Christmas, as if we didn't have enough to think about.
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Thread: Passing on the Blessings...
03-14-2005, 09:55 AM #1
- Join Date
- Feb 2002
- Cypress, TX
Passing on the Blessings...Brian P. Vickers
Emergency Services Consulting
Westlake VFD - Houston, TX
Proud Member IACOJ - Redneck Division
03-14-2005, 04:15 PM #2
- Join Date
- Sep 2004
- Linwood, NC
Amen, Brian! I was able to see my hometown dept. which I wrote their grant in '03 for SCBAs recycle their used SCBAs to a more needy dept. nearby, after being awarded that grant. I highly recommend that you contact your Helping Our Own State (or regional) Rep and help a needy dept. out.
Believe it or not, there are depts. out there with NO funding, or limited funding. Living only 40 miles from both Charlotte and Greensboro (NC) - I still have FDs I work with that receive under $10K a year!
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