PULASKI COUNTY, ARKANSAS, Ark. — The origin story of a hero oftentimes involves volunteering to do a tough job.
Saving lives and property by fighting fires can certainly be heroic and many of us rely on volunteer fire departments to do that job.
"Firefighting is inherently dangerous," said Capt. Jordan Morris with the Crystal Fire Department. "It doesn't discriminate between paid and volunteer."
Morris and Chief Dalton Shannon of the Runyan Acres Volunteer Fire Department took time out during a busy dry season to represent their fellow members of the Pulaski County Volunteer Firefighters Association.
"The continued dry-out has been a difficulty for a lot of us," said Morris. "We provide coverage out of one station, one engine, one truck company, a tanker, and a command vehicle."
Morris and Shannon are the ones who lead the charge when calls come into theirs or any other of the 17 volunteer fire departments across the most-populated county in the state.
There's an obvious difference between the city's professional fire departments and what their crews do— They all serve the public, but the pros get paid, and the demands can vary when the crews aren't standing by in a station.
"Members get pages in the middle of the night or in the middle of the day," explained Morris. "They respond to their stations, get on a piece of equipment and respond to that call."
The cost of that equipment they get on has been the same in Little Rock or Oak Grove, and lately, it's been expensive.
"We're looking at between $600,000-750,000 for a new fire engine," said Shannon. "Just to outfit an individual firefighter can range anywhere from $2,500 to $4,500 a firefighter."
And that means that sometimes the heroes of your local volunteer service are the ones that go out to find the funds for the equipment in between fighting fires.
"We typically have firefighters that have gained experience solely for the purpose of obtaining funds for the fire department, myself included," said Shannon. "I began writing grants, because of the necessity. We have to apply for those. We have to go out and find those."
Whether it's behind a desk or behind a hose, there's always been a sense of service to what these men and women do.
The association recently honored two lifelong volunteers at their monthly meeting. It's not unlike the spirit that has moved some to join the military.
"You have a lot of type 'A' personalities," said Shannon, who is a veteran himself.
"You've got to have that type of person that is willing to go towards the danger that's willing to take action when it's needed," he added.
"It's that giving back. It's the sense of community and I think that's what draws a lot of firemen," said Morris. "It's not just me, it's not just Crystal Fire Department, but all of our 17 departments in this county. It's that giving back. It's that sense that even for a moment we made a difference in somebody's life on their worst day."
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