HOULKA – When firefighters typically gather in bunch there is usually a fire and Saturday’s community event in downtown Houlka was no different.
“We are good at putting out fire and here we are trying to start one,” said Houlka Fire Chief Terry Short. “We are cooking hamburgers, hotdogs and we’ve got all the trimmings. This is one time we will all get together and have a little fun.”
The meal at noon Saturday at the fire station on the square in Houlka was followed by a Jaws-Of-Life demonstration where a medical dummy was extracted from a wrecked vehicle. A hospital helicopter was also called in to land on the square.
“The whole idea for this is to get more people interested in being volunteer firefighters,” said Short. “The days when you can just show up and offer to help squirt water are over. We need trained firefighters who will show up when the fire alarm sounds and can safely and effectively fight a fire.”
Short said the department is seeking volunteers from all walks of life and all ages.
“We need older folks who can help us watch and think safety and we need younger folks who can haul a hose,” said Short. “We need people who live in this community and want to help others when a home or business catches on fire.”
Short said Houlka has about two dozen trained firefighters, a pumper, grass truck, two tankers and an Emergency Medical Service unit. He said the department responded to 185 calls last year.
“We had one month where we were averaging about two calls a day,” said Short. “That’s why we are looking to spread the workload out.”
Short said teaching firefighters how to watch out for each other at a fire is a key part of training. He said firefighters have to know their buddies will respond when the fire whistle blows.
“We’ve got a pretty good group who responds from their homes to nighttime calls,” said sSort. “Our problem is most of our guys work out of town during the day and if we have a fire then, the response is sort of thin.”
Saturday’s event was aimed at reaching out to those who might be interested in serving their community.
Houlka Mayor Jimmy Kelly said volunteer fire departments are an economic development tool.
“Businesses, industry and homeowners have to know we can protect their property,” said Kelly. “Our guys do a real good job and they do it for no pay. They do it for the community.”
Kelly also said volunteer fire departments improve the quality of life in a community by bringing the community together for a common cause.
Short said anyone interested in being a Houlka Fire Department volunteer can call him at 542-7724 or Houlka City Clerk Gay Williams at Houlka City Hall at 568-2746.