Air Tank Woes Spur Firefighter Fundraiser

Nick Lawton
NewsWest 9

WEST ODESSA - Back in June, three of the West Odessa Volunteer Fire Department's air tanks were discovered to have hairline fractures and were condemned.

With those fractures, if the tanks were filled with air and that pressure were to escape through those cracks, the tanks could explode at any moment.

Firefighters need those tanks to breathe in burning homes but now they're not even sure which tanks are safe.

"Now we know that the little ones that we have, or we did have, are not good," West Odessa Volunteer Fire Chief, Jimmy Ellis, said. "If we had tried to fill them, it could have killed somebody."

Ellis told NewsWest 9 at the moment they can only trust seven out of the 20 air tanks they once used.

Each tank costs between $600-$800.

With just those seven, firefighters have been unable to use tanks for their brush trucks, which they need if the smoke gets to be too much.

"I would love to put an air pack on each one of my brush fire trucks," Ellis said. "There's a lot of times on brush fires that you need them. It would tickle me to death, but simple logistics says I can't afford to do that right now."

Now the company that inspected those tanks, Absolute Fire Protection, is hosting a fundraiser for firefighters at Astro Bowl on Sunday, July 17th.

It will be unlimited bowling from 1 p.m.-4 p.m. for $20 a person with all the proceeds going to the fire department.

The fundraiser will also have a bake sale, sports memorabilia raffle and auction for more funds for the firefighters.

"We've had tremendous response in regards to people selling baked goods," Absolute Fire Protection President, Velina Grijalva, said. "We're going to have a bake sale, auction off or raffle off big items like these pictures that are behind me, a television, we're going to have a lot of door prizes and we just want people to come out and enjoy themselves."

Oil changes, meals, haircuts and even free hotel stays will all be auctioned off.

Officials with Absolute Fire Protection said the community has truly banded around this fundraiser.

"Hopefully it will turn out as big as we expect it to so that it'll really help them to get new cylinders or new tires or be able to pay their gasoline bill, anything to keep them up and running and keep the people safe," Grijalva said.

Volunteer firefighters said they're touched by the fundraiser, saying this community support is why they do what they do.

"The thanks they get is when someone walks up and says 'Thank You', and that makes it all worthwhile to me," Ellis said. "It makes everything better."

NewsWest 9 was also told the company REXtac out of Odessa donated 15 new air tanks to the firefighters. The tanks are currently being tested at Absolute Fire Protection.