MIDLAND COUNTY, TX (KWES) - There's a decline of volunteer firefighters around the country, which is why the Midland County Northeast Volunteer Fire Department hopes to get more heroes on their team.
About 77% of firefighters in Texas are volunteers. They do the same training as city firemen and take the same classes. It takes a special kind of person to do a dangerous job but imagine doing it without receiving a dime for your work. But don't let the word "volunteer" throw you off.
"It's for the love of it," said Midland County Northeast Volunteer Fire Department Fire Chief Mat McClure. "My wife says it's God's calling. I like to help people. That's what I'm on this earth for, is to help people."
It's not all he does. He and his firefighters have full-time jobs on top of volunteering, some even work for the city's fire department. Just like them, they're up to date in all their certifications and training to fight the same fire.
"To hear people say they're not trained properly, yes they are, they don't have the certification from an association saying they do have that training," said McClure.
But the difference is volunteers do it all for free. So when duty calls, that means even leaving your full-time job to respond to a fire.
"They get paid to be there, we don't. We do it out of our own time and our own dime," said McClure. "You leave your job to fight a fire, come back in, go back to work. It can make a long day for a firefighter. They can't fire a firefighter to leave his job to fight a fire."
Because volunteer fire departments are not a tax entity, they don't have tax dollars to spend on equipment or training, all of it comes from donations or even out of their own pocket. The same way when they respond to a call, they use their own personal time to protect their communities.
"When you see a volunteer firefighter coming down the road, he may have just left the hospital where his wife had a baby or left his kid's birthday party. or he may have had a death in his family, but he's on the truck responding," said McClure.
But they're still in need of more firefighters as Midland County's population grows, because although the job is a job done for free, it's not just about volunteers having the time, but having the heart the provide a priceless service.
"We're there," said McClure. "We'll be there. Just have the heart to help somebody and do the training."
If you'd like to inquire about volunteering, call their station at (432) 686-9383.