Volunteer Fire Fighters React to Misconceptions

WICHITA COUNTY - An Electra volunteer firefighter has resigned after creating a bit of a storm on social media over the weekend.  

The posting brought outrage and calls for dismissal of the firefighter who posted to another person he wondered how quick fire fighters might get to their house if they needed help, apparently reacting to what he saw as criticism of their abilities and response times.

We spoke to some volunteer firefighters about some of the misconceptions people have and what the volunteers must deal with day after day.

"I remember my wife asked me one time, 'why do you have to go?' And I said, 'if I don't go who's going to go?' If it's your house or you pinned in that car, you want somebody to show up," said Wichita County Sheriff David Duke. "That's why volunteers get up and go."

"Being a volunteer fire fighter is a sense of community," said Bowman Fire Chief John Strenski. "It's a sense of dedication to your fellow man."

Strenski said while battling a fire at Lake Arrowhead, he had one volunteer, a high school senior who left school early, and most of his firefighters had to leave work to respond. A team he says puts their lives on the line to save others, for no pay.

Some local volunteers have been severely burned, even killed doing that job.

"We have a lot guys here today that are not working, that have left their jobs to come out here to fight this fire," Strenski said. "But they do it, not necessarily with a smile on their face because of what's happening, but it's a dedication and a sense of duty in their hearts."

"The volunteer fire department has been going on all this time and they do a really good job," said M.C Diseker, who lived at Lake Arrowhead for 38 years. "Of course, they have to come off their job and then go to the meetings at night. They're a bunch of good people."

Strenski said many residents have some misconceptions about volunteers.

"That we're a bunch of goofs sitting around the fire hall drinking beer all day, that can be the furthest thing from the truth," said Strenski. "We are professional. We hold ourselves to a professional standard. We take great offense, great offense to anybody in the public that says otherwise."

Sheriff Duke was a volunteer fire fighter for 28 years with the Wichita West VFD. He said many people don't realize that three quarters of America's fire departments are staffed by volunteers and that one bad apple doesn't spoil the bunch, who for the most part are dedicated servants.

"You have to be an individual that has that courage to be able to do that, knowing you could give your life for somebody," Duke said. "That's the ultimate sacrifice, is you giving your life for somebody. I've seen it done. It's a blessing to be able to do that, it really is. It does affect me because I know guys that have lost their lives in different ways, not just here but in other cities. It's definitely a God's calling."

Duke said since he put down his bunker gear and become a sheriff, he has worked to put in place policies where sheriff's deputies will better equipped to help fire departments.


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