The Slocum Township Fire Company has been totally volunteer and community supported since its inception in November of 1957; currently protecting the township’s approximately one thousand residents in four hundred and fifty five households within its sixteen and a half square mile borders.
In this modern age, many people tend to think of firefighting as paid employment, like what is portrayed on shows like Chicago Fire and others. Volunteers are sometimes seen as part of a bye-gone era –long lost with the likes of milkmen or house calls; the time necessary to dedicate to such a task swallowed up with soccer practices, long hours at the office or second jobs. So far, however, the volunteer institution is holding its own on the mountain and that is reflected in the way Slocum operates. Between the two operations of Slocum Fire Company and Ambulance Association, volunteers respond to an average of 300 calls per year –nearly one every single day.
The fifty seven members of both the Ambulance and Fire Company are, for the most part, one and the same –most of the firefighters run calls for the ambulance and vice versa, and many of these dedicated individuals run between one to two hundred calls per year. Chief Ron Burd attributes that to the exceptional relationship that the fire company and ambulance association has with the surrounding community.
“There are so many reasons that people can’t make it to a call or a training,” says Ron. “People work –sometimes off shifts, sometimes two or more jobs. But we appreciate whatever people can do –no matter how much or how little. We will find where you fit.”
Chief Burd has held the position for the last seventeen years and says that the company has always stayed within 40-50 active members during his tenure. He attributes much of that success to the township’s junior firefighter program, the fact that the company does not restrict eligibility to within the township boundaries, and to a very welcoming and understanding attitude toward what people can and cannot afford the time to do.
“We have seen many people come and go but we’ve been lucky to always have new people coming in to help. We’re all volunteers –nobody can be there all the time, but we have enough people to be ready around the clock. Somebody is always around to help,” says the chief.
Some members live in surrounding areas like Nuangola, Dorrance or Pond Hill, and the junior firefighter program is typically the result of adult active members passing the tradition on to their children. Juniors are able to attend calls at the age of 14 but are not allowed to operate equipment or enter a burning building. They can attend classes but in many cases are not able to gain certification until they turn 18, and are restricted in
See Slocum page 4