Just before January 2000, the unincorporated area of Red Lick in Berea was losing homes and suffering from numerous forest fires.
Amid the destruction, a woman decided the area of about 5,000 people needed a volunteer fire department to keep them safe.
According to Keith Everitt, department treasurer, if you have enough equipment to get started with creating a volunteer department, the state can provide funding.
Coming from nothing and desperately poor, the rudimentary elements of what would become the Red Lick Volunteer Fire Department salvaged a 1970s fire engine and a 1960s military tanker. found a building with a garage door and about 16 feet of workout room.
“We were extremely poor,” Everitt said. “At that time, there was no fundraising going on and we received about $ 8,000 from the state and $ 5,000 from the county.”
Because of this, Everitt said the early stages of volunteer service are run like the Wild West – not a lot of rules, other than the safe amount of equipment and donations from other services.
A former Marine, Everitt came to volunteer service in 2002 after helping save a man who fell into a hole.
“Once I did that, I thought, ‘I have to get involved in this.’ The first time I had a good fire I realized I liked it. Then I realized financially that the place was going to need help and I became the treasurer, this is my most important job. “
Things have changed since it opened in the 2000s.
Having next to nothing, Everitt said the department got out of debt, which was an effort that took a lot of work.
Everitt said he and Chief Wayne Adams took thousands of dollars out of their own pockets in the early years just to keep the RLVFD going.
“It was so bad in 2005 that we needed self-contained breathing apparatus and after we bought them all the money was gone, there was nothing for extra money.”
However, people began to see that the department was putting this money to good use. The ministry extinguished fires, rescued people, and carried out searches and rescues.
This was the same year the group started trying their hand at grant writing and have received around $ 700,000 in grants since 2005.
With the help of state and federal grants, the department was able to purchase trucks, new personal protective equipment, forest firefighting equipment, and money to upgrade their building’s infrastructure. ‘fire.
“Right now, the fire department is out of debt. We have enough money in the bank to be able to buy a used truck if we needed it,” Everitt said.
This time is fast approaching. To date, the RLVFD has three trucks, all of which are around 23 years old.
While this is an issue to be resolved later, Everitt and Chief Adams agree that a big issue Red Lick faces – and other volunteer services – is their retention and roster.
Of the 32 people on Red Lick’s list, less than half show up and participate in the appeals.
“The reality is that about 13 or 14 people come and show up,” he said. “On a cold night for a car accident, there could be three or four.”
Often this number is even lower.
“It’s really low,” said Chief Adams. “It’s more like five or six.”
Everitt said it’s not uncommon for sometimes just one or two people to react to the initial scene.
“We have Berea coming here to help us, but it can take about 20 minutes. It’s a long time trying to help yourself out on the scene with another person.”
Chad Furrow, a Red Lick volunteer and paid firefighter in Lexington agreed that retention is a big deal. He joined the service in 2017, but has been in the fire safety field since 2008. He said volunteering has always been something he aspire to do.
Furrow said he had a department two miles from the house he grew up in and was happy to volunteer.
“It wouldn’t help anyone if there was no one to answer. It wouldn’t help me if there was no one there. I like to remember where I’m from, and this service has me. helped me build a career and give back to this community. “
That trait, serving others, is a groove and Everitt said that you don’t see much in the younger generation anymore.
“The younger generation has changed,” Everitt said. “They don’t have the same public service motivation. I’m from the ’80s hippie generation where you pay up front. You really can’t find that anymore.”
Furrow added with the time it takes to get recruits to the 150 hours they need to be certified, some volunteers don’t even last that long. The COVID-19 pandemic made this even more stringent, as groups could not meet for trainings and were late for meetings.
“We totally closed and actually took more roads,” Everitt said. “The meetings were canceled but we were still answering calls. Since things were slow and the guys weren’t working as hard, we chose more routes. With the meetings, we stopped meeting in person and there is had once the governor opened things back up and we could teach CPR, but the next thing we knew, everything was stopped again. “
“It’s a huge problem right now, we need all the help we can get,” added Furrow. If people have the time to practice, we would like them to come and do just that, ”said Furrow. “Come in and train and tick these boxes to become a fully paid firefighter. You start as a volunteer and progress to becoming a paid firefighter. We will take as much help as possible, whatever can be given to the department we value. It’s not just for us as volunteers, it’s for everyone in our community. “
Another issue that has been exacerbated by the pandemic is the ability to raise funds.
While their department receives state and local aid – $ 16,000 through the county and $ 11,000 from the state – they are responsible for collecting the rest on their own through donations. This amount can range from $ 4,000 to $ 10,000.
The year before the pandemic, they could host chili cooks, live shows and other events. However, Everitt said those efforts are on hold until the pandemic subsides.
For this reason, the ministry looked for new avenues to be able to keep its doors open. Each year, the volunteer service participates in a roadside pickup grant with the county government where they receive $ 100 per mile for garbage picked up.
In addition, the group was able to obtain thousands of grants. Recently, a FEMA grant of $ 29,000 was recently awarded for extrication equipment. Furrow added that another departmental project he enjoyed working on is incorporating a new facility into the department after receiving a grant from the state fire commission to build a new training complex behind the fire station. firefighters where they can perform actual burns and practice any chapter within the volunteer training manual.
“This is where my biggest training has been,” said Furrow. “We will be undergoing training ranging from simply throwing ladders off the side of the station to practicing mock scenarios.”
Furrow, who is a training officer for RLVFD, and the rest of the department continue to write new grants and get more materials.
One of the things Furrow would like to accomplish is create a rescue program. Most often, the department manages numerous search and rescue missions. Red Lick has helped save a 5 week old puppy from a well, a 13 year old runaway and even a man who got lost searching for mushrooms.
“So the goal is to try to make sure that we can operate on most rescue scenarios,” Furrow said. “Being able to integrate lifesaving elements is an important goal for me and for the department over the next three to five years. “
As the Red Lick Service strives to make things better for its volunteers, ultimately it all comes down to the community.
“You take care of your friends when you’re a real volunteer fire department,” Everitt said. “We’re farmers, we’re factory workers, we’re high school kids, we’re a 70+ retiree who keeps showing up. You don’t have to be the saver. a lifetime, but you can certainly help us out. “