Volunteer firefighters: Why they serve - KTEN.com - Texoma news, weather and sports

Volunteer firefighters: Why they serve

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Volunteer firefighters share their concerns and frustrations. (KTEN) Volunteer firefighters share their concerns and frustrations. (KTEN)

If you live in a rural part of the country, odds are the firefighters you depend on are volunteers.

These people work odd hours and rarely get paid for their efforts, but they suit up for one purpose: To keep their neighbors safe.

"I'm humble about it, I guess," said Deputy Chief Michael Campbell of the Criner Hills Volunteer Fire Department. "I want to help them, but I'm not considering myself a hero."

Most of these rural fire stations were established because the municipal stations are simply too far away. After a house fire in the early 1980s, Charles Campbell decided to start the Criner Hills department. He's now the chief.

"The closest fire departments are in Marietta and Ardmore and Lone Grove," he explained. "By the time they got here, the house was completely destroyed. So we got together as a community and decided we needed a fire department in this area."

Volunteer firefighters don't have set schedules. Chief Campbell said the daily life of a volunteer firefighter is unpredictable.

"You don't know what time the pager's going to go off, or what time there's going to be a fire," he said. "You just go about your daily life and go about your daily work. Once the pagers go off, we respond."

Charles Campbell is retired, so he gets to focus full-time on being a firefighter. But his son, Michael, works a full-time job and has a family -- all while being a volunteer firefighter. He says it can be tough to manage family life.

"You're spending time with your wife and kids and your pager goes off, so you have to leave them alone," he said. "It's tough."

There are two big struggles within most volunteer fire departments: Insufficient funding and a lack of volunteers.

But Criner Hills is different. It isn't short on volunteers, and -- thanks to a certain Carter County tax -- their finances are in a good place.

"That helps us out by getting the equipment we need," Charles Campbell said. 

But for fire stations like the one in Lake Murray Village, just a short distance away, resources are a little harder to come by, making their job a little more difficult.

"We kind of have to do all of our maintenance ourselves," said firefighter Jerry Chandler. "We have to set our equipment up ourselves and just find whatever we can find to use."

Colleague Chad McMillan said having more volunteers on call in Lake Murray Village could be a lifesaving difference.

"It makes it rough out on fires, structure fires, accidents or whatever," he said. "Your men get tired, and you need to have a backup plan."

Criner Hills and Lake Murray Village are just two of Love County's 14 volunteer departments. Chandler said teamwork among the stations makes up for a lack of resources.

"It's a brotherhood," he said. "Along with all the stations that we work with, we've all become real good friends, we work with one another closely, we train with one another."

Volunteer fire departments are always accepting donations -- whether it be money, food, or water.

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