Newalla locals will now have a shorter time to wait for help with fires and medical emergencies on the weekends. For the first time ever, the volunteer fire department is staffing its busiest days.
The new weekend shifts will not only significantly cut call times, but also provide an opportunity to complete training. Being prepared for any situation is a key part of a firefighter's life, but in Newalla, they also have full-time jobs.
“With us being 100 percent volunteer -- even our chief is a volunteer, as well -- the community really helps us out a lot,” said Newalla firefighter Austin Walker.
The help is needed. Last summer, Oklahoma County eliminated its funding to the Newalla Fire Department. That paid for all of the utilities at the station, leaving the firefighters to rely on grants and fundraisers to operate.
The money for new bullet proof vests came out of the training officer's own pocket.
But the firefighters are far from alone, as evidenced by the cases upon cases of water at the station, which were given a little at a time by the citizens they serve.
That is why they decided to return the favor, coming in for shifts on days they could be relaxing.
"We are having to give up time with our families that we have to leave at home, but it’s going to benefit us in the long run,” Newalla firefighter Garrett Tincher said.
Before, the firefighters would get their calls for service at home and would have to go to the station to get trucks and gear before responding. The new shifts will reduce response time by at least 10 minutes, making the difference between life and death in some cases.
When they are not busy, they can study, perform truck maintenance, work on the remodel of their second floor, and even spend time having fun with their neighbors.
“We’ve had to go through a lot of struggles over the past year, and this is going to help us give back to the community a lot,” said Tincher.