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2007-11-29

Medina Lake VFD beefs up firefighting capacity

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Due to the skill and dedication of the members of their local volunteer fire department, Medina Lake residents have reason to feel safer these days.

A record nine firefighters with the Medina Lake VFD recently earned basic, or more advanced, firefighter certifications. MLVFD certified firefighters include Joel Bryant; Stephanie Calderon; Greg Grothues; Ben Hicks III, who also serves as a San Antonio firefighter; Jack Leutzinger; Homer Lopez; Travis Scott; Don Stader; and Mike Tagaras.

In addition, Don Roberts became an Instructor II, and conducts regular trainings for the department. His certification through State Firefighters and Fire Marshals Association (SFFMA) enables Roberts to conduct trainings for volunteer fire departments throughout the state.

The Fire Fighter Certification Program is administered by the SFFMA. Strict training guidelines require a minimum of 168 firefighter training hours for basic certification.

Most volunteer fire departments feel fortunate to have one or two certified firefighters, but, three years ago, MLVFD began a concerted effort to develop the most highly trained department possible.

Since that time, grants from the Texas Forest Service have enabled the MLVFD to send an average of four firefighters a year to the Texas A& M Fire Training School. The weeklong schools offer courses that teach firefighters new techniques, as well as basic skills. Firefighters give up a week away from their families and jobs to participate in the intense and important training.

In addition to attending the A&M fire school, MLVFD firefighters train one full Saturday and two weeknights each month.

Department volunteers not only answer calls for fires, but also respond to motor vehicle accidents, direct traffic and extricate victims. In addition, they provide lift assistance for EMS and the general public, set up landing zones for Air Life helicopters and act as back up for officers with the Bandera County Sheriff’s Office during methamphetamine lab busts and other operations - all without pay or Bandera County tax dollars. Members of the MLVFD are on call day and night.

The department has six working response trucks - two brush trucks, two 2,000 gallon tankers and two pumpers, the larger of which can pump 1,250 gallons of water per minute.

All funding is provided through community donations and grants.

“The Medina Lake community has been a big supporter of the fire department, with generous donations of auction items, barbecue items, ‘Pass the Boot’ donations, cars and structures to practice extrication and burns, monetary contributions and manpower,” said a department spokesman.

Inaugurated in 1961, the Ladies Auxiliary has been an integral part of the department’s success, handling support services as well as the culinary aspects of the April fundraising barbecue.

In addition, Girl Scout Troop #138 and local businesses helped construct a sign for the MLVFD training site.

The MLVFD is always looking for committed volunteers. Participation can occur on several levels, the most obvious as a firefighter. However, residents can also join the team that supports department fundraising. Young people can serve as junior firefighters. The four current junior firefighters, who range in age from 14 to 17, attend trainings and assist at fire scenes and fire department functions.

Anyone who would like to become a part of the MLVFD family is encouraged to attend membership meetings held 7:30 pm on the second Tuesday of each month at the Lakehills Firehouse on PR 37.

“Please come and meet these brave men and women and become a part of the team who serves our community so well,” the spokesman said.