AUSTIN (KXAN) — The wildfire risk may be low Thursday in Burnet, but it’s been a tough wildfire season for firefighters across the Hill Country.
It’s been even harder for volunteer fire departments who depend on people to show up and help fight the blaze.
“It takes a large group to fight these fires,” said Melissa Meeks, a volunteer firefighter and public information officer for the Burnet Volunteer Fire Department. “We’ve got a huge need.”
For Meeks, firefighting is a family affair.
“My father-in-law, my husband and myself are on the department,” she said.
Meeks never imagined she would be one to fight fires, but after a close call with her home, she decided she wanted to give back.
However, Meeks has been doing more than fighting fires for the past two years. The mother of two also spends her evenings working at an area’s Baptist church.
“Life has just gotten so busy,” she said.
Meeks worries life’s obstacles impacts the number volunteers they’re able to recruit.
“People are worried about adding one more thing to their plate, especially something that can be so time consuming,” Meeks said.
The help, however, is evident. This summer, Meeks and her fellow volunteer firefighters were faced with what felt like back-to-back wildfires.
“We were gone for two and three days at a time,” she said, recalling the 557-acre Park Road fire.
The fire, which started around 3 p.m. Sunday, July 29, led to the evacuation of 50-70 homes and 400 visitors from Inks Lake State Park. Most homeowners who were evacuated were allowed back into their houses the next day.
“I was there for 36-40 hours straight,” recalled Randy Meeks, the VFD’s chief.
For the greater part of his firefighting career, he’s been fighting fires for free. It wasn’t until a few years ago that he became the one and only person on payroll as the chief and administrator of the VFD.
Currently, the station’s roster is made up of 25 volunteers, a number that would satisfy most volunteer departments, but Meeks says that number can be deceiving as not all of them can be available for every fire.
“It’s a need that’s not ever going to go away.”
If you would like to volunteer or learn more about how to get involved with the Burnet Fire Department you can visit its Facebook page or call (512) 756-5911.
Raising money for equipment
Rain or shine, on Saturday, the VFD will be hosting its first “Fun Day” event. The entry fee is donation-based and those who attend can expect a fish fry dinner, live music and games for children.
The event will take place at the Burnet Municipal Airport from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
All the proceeds go towards purchasing a UTV vehicle to help fight wildfires.