(TNS) - Imagine working a 12-hour day on the weekends. Now imagine volunteering for the shift with no pay, and that's the life of a Newalla firefighter.
On May 6, the Newalla Fire Department launched duty shifts from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. At least four firefighters will be on staff for the 12-hour shifts.
Having the station staffed on weekends will allow for shorter response times, increased service for residents and more training for firefighters, spokesman Cody McDonell said.
The volunteer fire district is roughly bordered by SE 29 on the north, SE 59 on the south, Triple X Road on the west and Pottawatomie Road on the east, McDonell said.
The department has four firefighting apparatus and two chief's vehicles.
Manning the station paid off on the first weekend.
The kitchen of a single-wide mobile home caught fire on Sunday. The first rig made it on scene in about four minutes, McDonell said.
"It started at the stove, and it got into the walls, but we were able to stop it before it got to the ceiling. There was a little bit of smoke damage throughout the house, but nothing major. If we wouldn't have been able to get there that fast, it could have been a total loss," McDonell said.
During the day, firefighters will perform training exercises, maintenance, cleaning and other duties around the fire station and community. Some will stay later than their assigned shifts.
“We have several members who live outside of our district that aren't able to make many of our emergency calls. Having duty shifts on the weekends will give them the chance to be at the station and respond to those calls much faster than if they were coming from home,” Fire Chief Brian Youngblood said.
Firefighters Garrett Tincher and Austin Walker came up with the idea, working to create schedules and rules for the shifts.
“We're firefighters because we want to give back to the community and make a difference. These duty shifts really give us the chance to grow as a department and show our community we are dedicated to their protection,” Tincher said.
“By dedicating time to being at the station on weekends, we are giving ourselves more time for training. Part of the responsibilities of the members on these shifts will be to seek out new training and learn new things. It also gives a chance for everyone to work on existing skills so that they can grow as firefighters,” Walker said.
The Newalla Fire Department is funded by donations and grants. A recent $3,000 grant from the Oklahoma Electric Cooperative has already funded a new defibrillator, and the rest will go to purchasing new wildfire bunker gear, McDonnell said.
Last year, Oklahoma County gave the department notice it would no longer be receiving funds, the total of which amounted to less than $10,000 a year. All members of the department are volunteers and receive no compensation for their work.
"It makes for a long weekend, but it's certainly worth it," McDonell said.
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