SAN ANGELO, Texas – Volunteer fire departments are vital to our outer more rural communities, because the city fire department can be too far and too late when disaster strikes.
“The need is there, whether it’s in the daytime, the evening or on the weekends. In fact, the need is growing in our community, specifically. We’ve seen a tremendous increase in population,” said Jose Rivera, who is the Deputy Fire Chief at Grape Creek Volunteer Fire Department and has been with the department for 16 years.
Grape Creek Volunteer Fire Department is 1 of 10 volunteer fire departments in the Concho Valley and it has been around since 1972. We got to speak with Joe Rutherford, who has been with the department for 37 years and is their Captain and Treasurer.
“There was a time when we as the members, would have to pull money out of our pockets to make a truck payment. San Angelo Fire Department gave us some used bunker gear, it was used, but it was brand new to us,” explained Rutherford.
Volunteer fire departments need dedicated members because this job doesn’t pay and their time is always sacrificed, for all sorts of community needs.
“We’re an all-hazards organization, there might be a time when we get a call at 4:00 a.m. to pick up an individual whose fallen and they can’t get up. There are times when we get calls for elderly people needing help out of their vehicle,” elaborated Rivera.
Grape Creek Volunteer Fire Department obtains funds through donations, grants and the Tom Green County ESD #1, which allocates money from property taxes.
“Without these grants we would not be where we are today. I’m happy to say that were debt free,” stated Rutherford.
This volunteer fire department is a place where needs are met and life-long friendships are formed.
“He started out as my bus driver. Bus 2, right? He then became my 6th grade teacher and has been my captain ever since I joined. Seeing Mr. Rutherford responding to calls… I think that lead to him being one of my inspirations to join the volunteer fire department,” expressed Rivera.
“I think I’m not always going to be around but it’s going to be in good hands when I’m gone,” claimed Rutherford.