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Beeville and Refugio Volunteer Fire Departments desperately lacking volunteers

Posted at 6:49 PM, Apr 21, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-21 19:49:46-04

REFUGIO, Texas — For the past few months, the heat from blazing fires has been all too familiar for the Refugio Volunteer Fire Department.

They’ve fought the Skidmore, King Ranch and Borrego fires in the past few months.

But they’ve been doing that with a disadvantage: Lacking volunteers for the past few years.

Refugio Volunteer Fire Department Chief Ronald Williams said lately, they’ve been seeing a lack of volunteers applying because a lot of people are having to get multiple jobs due to high inflation.

He said that means people aren’t volunteering and they need new recruits.

He said they currently have 27 volunteers, but need at least 30, especially during the day time.

“Fires didn’t just happen at night, they happen during the day, too and people have to take off from their job and respond and sometimes that’s hard to do,” Williams said.

He said they now usually average about 5-6 volunteers to fight a big structure fire, but that’s only about a third of the people they need.

Kris Campos joined the fire department just two months ago because he has a lot of cousins in the fire department and wanted to continue his family’s legacy.

He said he’s known Chief Williams since he was a kid.

“Ronnie, our chief, when we were in first grade, I think his wife was our teacher and he’d come out there as we were kids and let us use the fire truck and mess around,” Campos said.

However, the Refugio Volunteer Fire Department isn’t alone.

Even though they are also lacking volunteers, the Beeville Volunteer Fire Department helps them fight fires.

“Volunteers, they have normal jobs and so usually during the weekday is when we see a need,” Jaime Hernandez, Beeville Volunteer Fire Department Captain of Company 1 said.

Hernandez said they would like to have about 70 volunteers, but they only have about 40.

He said working with the Refugio VFD is an advantage to fighting the fires because they get them out quicker.

“We have become a lot closer, even though we’ve always had a mutual aid agreement, but we’ve been fighting so many fires together as a mutual aid in conjunction with other fire departments, that we’ve gotten closer and we’ve gotten to know each other very well and we work well as a team,” Hernandez said.

Hernandez said the City of Beeville has increased the volunteer stipend and said that’s getting them some volunteers, but just not enough.

At the Refugio Volunteer Fire Department, Williams said they pay ten dollars for every call and they get benefits through the State Firefighters and Fire Marshall’s Association.

But he said the job isn’t about the pay.

“You really get peace of mind that you were able to help someone, and that’s really the pay for this job,” Williams said.

Campos, who said he’s been enjoying his experience and rising up to the challenges they face, encourages people to join.

“They’re teaching me a lot of new stuff (...) just join up,” Campos said.

Both volunteer fire departments said you do need to apply and they will train you.

They have meetings three Tuesdays a month and they’re encouraging anyone to apply at their fire stations.