In response to the growing need for new volunteer firefighters, Webster Fire District 7 has initiated a recruitment campaign for interested citizens to learn how to "answer the call" and serve their community.
"As the fire protection needs of the community grow, so does the need for additional members," said District 7 Fire Chief Brian Williams, a 12-year veteran of the department. "We are a small town fire district in many ways but our responsibilities have been increasing."
When the call goes out for a fire or motor vehicle accident throughout Webster Parish, many responders are volunteers.
Webster Fire District 7, which covers Dixie Inn and the surrounding area is no exception. The district, which lies between the Bossier Parish line and the City of Minden, and extends north to Cotton Valley west of Dorcheat Bayou, relies solely on volunteers to respond and perform critical firefighting and emergency services.
Williams cites new development on U.S. Hwy. 80 west of the Village of Dixie Inn and increased highway traffic on the interstate, for an increased number of significant motor vehicle crashes.
"With the planned expansion of Camp Minden, it's likely that we will see even further development outside of its gates within the district," Williams said. "As a growing department, we have a need for members that may want to provide non-firefighting support at a scene, or community members with truck driving experience that simply may want to drive and pump fire apparatus, freeing up interior qualified members for interior firefighting assignments."
Non-firefighting functions include assisting with the district's public education efforts, taking fire ground photographs, which can later be used for training or assisting with department administrative operations.
Training for all new firefighting members begins with a 44-hour Rookie Class which trains members in the basics of firefighting including fire ground command structure, department organizational structure and operations, firefighter safety and survival, exterior and interior structural, vehicle and brush/wild land firefighting as well as response to motor vehicle incidents.
In addition to the rookie class, new members are also eligible to attend training sponsored by LSU Fire Training, including monthly "drill nights," as well as other firefighting classes held at the Pine Country facility on Camp Minden, department-sponsored specialized training and other regional training opportunities.
Once the rookie class is completed, members will work toward achieving Firefighter I and II certifications and will be required to attend weekly training, as well as some specialized training sessions as needed.
They will also have the opportunity to attend optional advanced fire and rescue training through LSU Fire Training, Texas Fire Training (TEEX) as well as other training programs offered by other fire departments as well as various local, regional, state and federal agencies.
Training for driver/operators, support and non-firefighting members will be adjusted based on their role within the department.
The district covers about 70 square miles operating from five stations responding to about 120 calls per year.
The district has just relocated its headquarters from Station 1 in Dixie Inn to the recently completed Station 5 on Hwy. 80 across from McIntyre Road. The station gives the district a full-sized training room, three offices, a small kitchen and increased apparatus bay and storage space to meet the increasing needs of the district.
In addition, the station sits on a large plot of land, which will be developed in the coming years into a training facility with multiple live fire training props.
"The new training space gives us the ability to conduct training and host classes that we simply couldn't in the past," Williams said. "The land available for the development of a hands-on training facility will greatly improve the capabilities of the district as firefighting training props are added."
In addition, the new facility will give the department the space needed to host public education events for the public including the annual Fire Safety Open House, CPR and first aid classes, and fire and life safety education presentations.
If you are interested in talking about becoming a firefighter, driver/operator, support member, or becoming involved in Webster Fire District 7 in any other capacity, either stop by the fire station on Hwy. 80 at McIntyre Road most Thursday nights after 6 p.m., call 371-2754 or visit www.websterfd7.com.