WICHITA FALLS (KFDX/KJTL) — The men and women of the Wichita West Volunteer Fire Department dedicate their time protecting their neighbors in the event of a fire and other emergencies and they do this willingly, expecting nothing in return.

In this week’s Helping the Helpers, though, they do hope for continued support in staying operational.

Rick Lasky has been in the fire service for more than 40 years and said it has been a rewarding experience.

“This volunteer fire department has been here since 1979, it’s made up of some incredible people, people who just want to serve their community, they just want to make a difference,” Lasky said.

Lasky said volunteer firefighters are the backbone of the fire service.

“The volunteer fire service has been around since Ben Franklin created it in 1736, there’s a little over 1.1 million firefighters in the United States and 67% roughly are volunteers,” Lasky said.

The Wichita West Volunteer Fire Department housing 19 of them.

Assistant Fire Chief Michael Albert said COVID-19 affected the way they respond to calls.

“We are using more personal protective equipment, gloves, masks than we’ve used in the past,” Albert said. “We also limit the number of patients to fire department contacts we have.”

This department is among the various volunteer fire services that have suffered financially due to the pandemic.

“The volunteer fire service nationwide lives off of donations and a limited budget, in Wichita County the county helps us with a small portion of our budget but a lot of what we do are the fundraisers,” Lasky said.

“The county contract has declined a little bit they have offset our contract funding to support the purchase of a new repeater system to communicate, that funding has decreased plus we weren’t able to fundraise,” Albert said. “Our current department needs approximately $50,000 to $75,000 a year just to stay operational and to stay current with all of our equipment.”

And Albert said that is just to maintain the department, it does not include money for new equipment which they need.

They hope to bounce back after seeing a significant decline in donations.

“This is our home, this is where we respond, every day of the year, night or day it doesn’t matter to any of the needs from the community,” Lasky said.

If you would like to volunteer your time, it’s not all about fighting fires.

Albert said there are other duties like mechanical, engineering, maintenance or CPA, that are so important.

To find out how you can get involved, follow this link.

To donate, follow this link.