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Shirley VFD seeks help to purchase tanker

By Staff | Dec 3, 2014

There is no doubt that our local fire fighters are special people. Many serve their communities voluntarily, seeking no payment nor reward but head into danger when the rest of us flee from it. However, now one of these departments is in dire need of help from its community. Shirley Volunteer Fire Department has begun a drive to replace a tanker which was damaged beyond repair while responding to a gas well pad fire in Tyler County.

This fire occurred the night of Oct. 15. Shirley VFD received the call concerning a Noble Energy pad fire at 10:10 p.m. They did not leave the scene of the fire until the next morning at 7:35 a.m. Assistant Chief Mitch Wilcox stated that the only equipment salvageable from the tank was loose equipment, such as nozzles, hose, and hand tools. “When the rear-end assembly broke loose because of the extremely rough road, it punched a hole in the water tank as well as caused other damage,” Wilcox added.

Preliminary talks with insurance show that the department might receive $40,000, if they decide to total the truck.

According to a letter that the Shirley VFD has posted on its Facebook page, as well as submitted to local stakeholders, the department has had the only tanker in Tyler County for the past 10 years. The tanker was purchased from LeRoy, N.Y., in 2004. “While this truck was not new nor in the best of shape, we were able to provide the upkeep on it to keep it available not only for Tyler County, but also for our surrounding counties,” the department’s letter states. “This tanker is desperately needed to support water needs at structural fires, and is an integral piece in controlling and extinguishing fires involving well pads and equipment.”

Wilcox explains that the tanker has a larger supply of water on board. “That is needed for quick responses to structures and wells,” he explains. “The quicker you can get large quantities of water on the fire, the more control you have.”

“For every minute without water on a fire, it doubles in size,” adds Ryan Kinney, firefighter/EMT with the SVFD.

“Especially where low or no water supplies are located,” Wilcox states, adding that with the large influx of oil and gas activity, a tanker and foam is “almost imperative.” The assistant chief states that the tanker is used at almost every fire, such as structures and wells, as well as brush fires.

“Our fire department . . . it handles the most calls in the county but operates with the oldest equipment in the county,” Kinney states.

“That’s true,” Wilcox states, adding that the department has responded to 306 calls so far this year.

“When I first joined in 2005-2006, we had 20 calls for the year,” Kinney states.

As for the old equipment, Wilcox states that it’s expensive to keep up the old stuff, adding that on a recent run he was driving a 1979 truck, whereas Kinney was driving a 1987 truck.

Sadly, the department cannot seem to get any grant funds because it is a small-town department.

“It’s hard replacing a $150,000 truck when you’re funding from the state isn’t even half that for the entire year,” Wilcox states.

In its letter to the community, Shirley VFD states that it is the most-active fire department in Tyler County and that many of its calls are mutual aid to calls in neighboring communities and counties, “as all volunteer fire departments in the area are low on manpower at times.”

Shirley VFD also supplied the following breakdown of its calls by area: Shirley, 20 (five received mutual aid); Alma, 110 (64 calls with no assistance); Middlebourne, 114 (58 calls with no assistance); McClellan (Doddridge County), 54 (seven with no assistance); other Doddridge, Wetzel, and Ritchie: seven

Kinney explains that the list above is by “first due”, or an area that is assigned to a department as their territory. “Shirley’s territory is from the Doddridge County line on Route 23 to Pratts Run and the Route 23 intersection. Anything in that area is our first due, and we should be the first to arrive on scene,” he adds.

The letter from Shirley VFD states that the department is beginning the drive “to replace this tanker so we can continue providing assistance to our entire area and neighbors. This equipment will also assure that we will have the water readily available, making it safer for our firefighters and the public.”

Shirley VFD’s goal is $212,000, which would purchase a unit “with no frills-just the basic, to continue this protection.”

The department is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization and is supported solely by the State of West Virginia fire service funding, as well as donations from businesses and the public. All donations are tax deductible and can be sent to Shirley Volunteer Fire Department, 5956 McElroy Creek Road, Alma, WV 26320.

“Please show your support and help us achieve our goal to help you and others,” Shirley VFD’s statement says. “Support the volunteers who so selflessly provide the services required to keep our communities safe communities.”