Notes from the Peanut Gallery

Monday, February 25, 2008

More from The Brackett News

My last published blog entry used a clipping from The Brackett News that I honestly felt I had fair use to use since its content wasn't original (unless the newspaper changed the Sheriff's Report before printing it), because it was for non-profit use, and because it was such a small portion of the published paper as a whole. However, in a very polite email from The Brackett News owner, Leigh Volscko, she told me she had been informed that I had scanned and uploaded a portion of her paper and asked me to remove it, so I have.

You will have to just trust me from here, I suppose, unless you have your own copy of the paper to refer to. I will quote the portion of the clipping that I published in my last entry.

In last week's Sheriff's Report there was quote saying that on Monday, February 11th, "....the fire was getting close to the houses. The Brackettville Volunteer Fire Dept. was paged three times and there were no response. The Val Verde Fire Department was then contacted. The fire was later reported under control and aide was cancelled."

This story isn't "wrong." It just leaves out some key facts which ultimately leaves the reader believing that BVFD ignored three calls from the Sheriff's office on this fire. Yours truly was on the phone with the Sheriff's office immediately after the first page and within minutes (less than five) after the first page the fire was called off. In fact, I still have the phone number of the contact person who reported the fire, I wrote it down when the Sheriff's office called my home right after the first page. The fire may have been paged out three times, I don't remember, I was too busy grabbing my husband's bunker gear for him as he was trying to get oriented--he'd just been wakened from a dead sleep-- to count how many times the fire got paged out. I was also very scared because the page had said that there were homes being threatened by the fire. Believe me, that gets you moving. Above all else, firefighters (volunteer or otherwise) are keenly aware of what fire can do to lives and homes.

Our firefighters nearly all have cell phones and they all call each other within moments of a page so they can begin organizing even as they are jumping in their cars to drive to the station. This call was called off so quickly that there was little time for firefighters to call the Sheriff's office or each other.

Response time from a paid department who has firefighters standing by, within feet of their trucks, to respond at all times would be much quicker than the response time from a group of volunteer firefighters who are all asleep in their beds at 2:30 in the morning. A slightly slower response time from volunteers who don't hang out at the station 24/7 is to be expected.

I've said this before publicly and I've said it here repeatedly: If the county wants to create a county run fire department so it can have firefighters who can respond faster and have better equipment, then they should do it. It would be a good thing for the community. But BVFD shouldn't get bashed, even if was an accidental omission, for being volunteers who can't scramble as fast because they are ASLEEP or at work or fishing with their kids or doing what people do when they aren't voluntarily risking their health and safety to protect the lives and properties of others.

If you don't like the way that BVFD responds to a fire, then there's something you can do about it. You can join. BVFD can't be changed from the outside, it's an entity run by its members. BVFD is not answerable to the county or to the city. You want it to be run differently? Then get in here and show us what you got.

On a more personal note, I was sitting in the living room one day watching television with a friend when Julie Fuentes (of Daddy's Grill) knocked on my door. She wanted to let me know that my back yard was on fire. Bless that woman, she probably saved our house. I raced to the backyard to discover that a large pile of wood had caught fire because of some hot coals that fell out of the barbeque pit. We called 911 immediately and BVFD members (this was years before my husband joined the department) were there in less than five minutes. Some were in personal vehicles and one of the fire engines arrived too.

I had the fire out by the time they arrived, a girl can move pretty fast when she's afraid her house is going to burn down, but my eaves were blackened at one corner of the house and those guys scrambled onto the roof to make sure that no sparks had settled themselves on something up there that might catch (my roof is metal but there is some wooden trim up there as well). I watched amazed as they used the call as a training session for some of the newer members--showing the newbies how to feel for hotspots, look and smell for smoke, and I don't know what all they did up there.

I was so grateful for the department at that moment and my gratitude has never waned since. I've always had a special place in my heart for BVFD, however. My stepfather was a member of the department for many years and also served as Chief.

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