Try to imagine a world without the kind of people who volunteer their time and effort in service to others; the type of people who are rewarded, not with a paycheck but with the satisfaction of knowing that many people benefit from their selfless devotion to the preservation of life and property.
Among the legion of volunteers in numerous categories, those who organize their neighbors to fight fires in their communities understand the need and do what it takes to fill it. Organized firefighting has a history that goes back to ancient Egypt in the 3rd century BC, when a rudimentary water pump was invented with a device to haul the aqueous product to the scene of a blaze. For several centuries afterward, the “bucket brigade” was the only chance people had to save their homes from fiery destruction. When towns and cities became large enough to pay for around-the-clock fire protection, it became a professional career that included extensive training in the use of modern equipment.
Nevertheless, according to the National Fire Protection Association, 69 percent of firefighters in the United States are volunteers. One such valiant group is right here in Double Oak, Texas. As it reads on their website (www.dovfd.org), “The tradition of volunteering to serve the community lives on. DOVFD is the only remaining 100 percent volunteer fire department in Denton County. None of our members receive any compensation for their dedicated work. For the DOVFD, the satisfaction of helping others during a difficult event in their lives is our motivation.” The Chief of the DOVFD is Joe Dent, a resident of the 2.5-square-mile town for the past 25 years. “I grew up in the construction industry and did a lot of work with fire equipment when building homes and businesses, so I had a basic knowledge of it,” said Chief Dent.
With a population of about 3,000, Double Oak has been protected by volunteers since 1980, when the department began with just a few men. Today, they have 22 volunteers, one of whom is a woman who has achieved the rank of captain. “We’ve had as many as 28,” said Dent, who’s been part of the team for 20 years. Although there are no age requirements, every volunteer must prove that they’re healthy enough for the physically demanding job.
“The applicant will meet with me and other board members at least 3-4 times during training sessions to make sure that they understand the requirements and are positive that this is what they want to do,” the chief said. “We do the application and a background check, and if it works out, they can be voted in. Then they receive about 72 hours of training in certain areas, which I call objectives, before they’re actually allowed to fight a fire. They have to know how to use the equipment properly without getting hurt.”
They are a 501c3 organization that is financed through donations, grants and fundraising activities. Plus, they are covered under the town’s workman’s compensation plan if there are any injuries on the job. The Town of Double Oak contributes some funds to the group and part of the chief’s job is to prepare a budget. About half of the firefighters are trained to be Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs), which takes 144 hours of specialized training. “The EMTs do a lot of transporting, ranging from heart attack victims, falls, pool accidents, etc.,” Dent said. “If someone calls 911 it goes to the county sheriff’s department dispatch center and they’ve got so many dispatchers set aside for just fire calls and they page us out from there. We go to the fire station and get our equipment and the trucks.”
Upon request of residents, they also provide free home inspections. “We do whatever we can to help our residents in their time of need. We train every Tuesday night at the station, 1110 Cross Timbers Drive in Double Oak. Two Tuesdays are for training with ladders, fire drills, etc. One night a month is for maintenance work. We may do fire behavior one week.” I asked how many are usually available to fight a fire. “We have to have at least three firefighters on an engine, but we usually get more than that to respond.” They also may receive help from Flower Mound and Argyle in what’s known as mutual aid for structural fires. Such assistance must be requested by someone at the scene of a fire. The beginning position is firefighter. Superior officers range from lieutenant to captain, assistant chief and chief. I asked how expensive it is for maintenance of the equipment. “An oil change on an engine like ours, for example, is probably $500 to $700,” said Chief Dent. Is everyone required to purchase their own uniform? “No, right now we are trying to provide that for them. Most times they wear T-shirts; if they don’t go and purchase their own we have a standard one that has fire department insignia on it.”
They organize their own awards banquet each year. “If there is something special going on we can get on the agenda of the council meeting and they recognize us for our work,” he said humbly. The men and women who perform this dangerous work may never get the recognition they truly deserve. That’s just one of the many reasons for us to keep them in our prayers. Last year’s awards banquet was held at Bridlewood Country Club, where the photo accompanying this article was taken.