A proposed bill would make it easier for volunteer first-responders in Texas to leave their day-jobs and respond to an emergency.
Northeast Volunteer Fire Department’s firefighter, Aaron Cooper, says choosing between his passion and his responsibilities seems like a losing battle. “It’s either your job or the community, and you know, being a dad and a husband, I have to choose my job.“ He says making the decision each day is like an ultimatum, leaving him to feel helpless.
“My place of employment was right next door to where those fires were at, and I’m sitting there having to watch the crew here from Northeast, and my Chief, and my brothers in arms here run into there and try to battle a blaze that was just growing and growing without… I mean I just had to sit there and watch.“
However, with 78% of firefighters in the United States being volunteers, Fire Chief, Mat McClure, says the currently proposed house bill is their best bet.
“We’ve had firefighters get fired from their jobs leaving the scene,“ explained McClure. “This bill allows our firefighters to be able to get off work to come fight these fires and have their jobs protected. And it’s going to allow us to get more of our firefighters out on the fire scene.“
McClure says due to the fear of losing their jobs, there has always been a lack of volunteers. The department currently has 30 active volunteers, but often times, only 10 are able to show up to the scene of the fire. McClure says if the bill passes, he believes it could double the number of his men.
“There’s a lot of men and women who have the passion to help, but their hands are kind of tied right now,“ stated Fire Lieutenant, Freddy Rodriguez.