By Katie Gager, Student Reporter
For a group of at least seven students, volunteer fire fighting has become a unique and different way to serve the Abilene community. With a job that includes putting out domestic and grass fires and saving lives, these students provide a public service that is of high value in the community.
“It’s a fun way to help out and be a part of the local community,” said Matthew Davis, junior finance major from Malibu, Calif. “It’s a nice way to serve and give back.”
A group of eight students, including Davis, chose, while living in Barret Hall as sophomores, to become volunteer fire fighters at the Hamby Fire Department for their service project. Today, four of the original students continue serving at the fire station, and a few additional students have since joined.
“You get a rush going out there and jumping in the truck to go to a fire,” said Stephen Powell, junior finance major from Abilene and one of the original eight. “It’s a great experience to learn and have for later on in life.”
The students are notified when they are needed through a pager system, Powell said. January through March is marked as fire season, so the calls are more frequent.
“Some weeks you are called every day,” Powell said. “And others, you are only called two times at most.”
As students, they must learn how to manage both their time at school and their time serving as fire fighters. It is on a volunteer basis, so they go and serve when they can, Powell said.
“I have only skipped class once in a year and a half,” he said. “School is priority for me, and I usually wait till class is over to go out to the emergency.”
These students have become a valuable resource for the Hamby Fire Department, assistant fire chief Bill Shaw (’74) said. Most volunteers work during the day, so the students provide a hand because of their flexible schedule when others cannot come.
“I wouldn’t trade them for anything,” Shaw said. “They are excellent. They are good at attending meetings and helping out with things around the station like changing oil and washing trucks.”
When the students first came on board, they were told to listen, follow orders and do what you are told, he said. The students have demonstrated their character and have become important to the department.
“They understand that safety is No. 1,” Shaw said. “When we get through at the end of the day, everyone goes home uninjured.”
While the station has a full list of volunteers, it still is accepting new volunteers on an individual basis. Shaw encourages anyone interested to talk to some of the men in the department and come out and visit to see what it is like.
Students, who have been around a while like Davis, recognize the importance of their commitment and the part they play in providing help to the community and to the fire department.
“You definitely need to be committed,” Davis said. “Because they put a lot of trust and time into you. Listen to them because they are going to teach you and help you learn the tricks of the trade.”