Proud to Be One of "Brodie's Boys"...
October is National Fire Prevention Month and a perfect time to thank local firefighters for the great job they do in protecting our community. Within the county we have several fire departments: Carthage, Gary, Beckville, Clayton, Woods, Flatwoods, Deadwood, Elysian Fields and Community 4. They fight fires because they love it, and it's very rare to find someone who truly enjoys what they do.
With a membership of 36 firefighters, the Carthage Fire Department has over 750 combined years of experience. One thing that brings Fire Marshal Duane Baushke and Fire Chief Brodie Akins a lot of pride is the ISO rating that has been achieved for the City. Ratings are 1-10, with 1 being the best. Carthage has a rating of 2. Only 103 out of 2,995 cities in the State of Texas have received a 2 or better rating. To achieve this, several things are considered – the water system the city has, the amount of equipment on the fire trucks, the types of pumps, what trucks are available to respond, the amount of training the firefighters have, and how a 911 alarm is received and dispatched by the fire department. The ISO rating of a community has a direct effect on the insurance premiums that individuals pay on their homes and especially on commercial buildings. The Fire Department has worked hard to achieve this rating so that insurance rates will be lower for the citizens of Carthage. New firefighter Kraig Cain commented, "When I was attending Fire School this past summer, a firefighter from Conroe saw the emblem on my shirt that showed we have an ISO2 rating. He couldn't believe that a town the size of Carthage could achieve such a high rating."
Training is an integral part of any good fire department. Each week the firefighters have a meeting, but it's not a social event. Procedures are practiced, equipment is reviewed, recent incidents discussed—any and every thing to help keep the department at its best. Several firefighters from the county attend the Texas A&M Fire School at the Brayton Fire Training Field in College Station. Firefighters from all over the world attend this top-notch training which is held the last week in July every year. It is recognized as the largest live-fire training facility and the most comprehensive emergency response training complex in the world. Six members of the Carthage Fire Department serve as instructors each year: Bryan Rickert, Duane Baushke, Gene Giles, Mark Dawson, Randy Liedtke and Steve Williams. Fire Chief Brodie Akins served as instructor for many years as well. Firefighter Randy Liedke states, "People know Brodie and know that he runs a well-trained group of firefighters. We get a lot of respect from other fire departments. When we wear our Carthage Fire Department shirts at the school, guys that have been around fire service a long time will come up to us and say, 'You're one of Brodie's Boys.' We're proud to be called Brodie's Boys. He's well respected in the fire service field. He's a no-nonsense kind of guy. He knows what to do and how to take care of business, and he expects us to represent CFD in a good way. People at Fire School know that if you're one of Brodie's Boys, you are well trained and know how to handle a hose. We're proud of the tradition that he has built."
Not only do they train to fight fires, the CFD is also actively involved with several state organizations. Two members have held the position of President with the State Firemen's and Fire Marshals' Association--Bryan Rickert and David Claubaugh. Also, Governor Rick Perry appointed Gene Giles as a Commissioner of the Texas Commission on Fire Protection and Steve Williams to the Board of Trustees of the Texas Emergency Services Retirement System.
Why become a firefighter? The first thing most will tell you is that they love helping people and want to give back to the community. If any go to training, they give up their vacation time to do it. When they go to a fire, they wear 60 pounds of protective gear, sometimes in 100 degree weather. The pager goes off in the middle of the night or just as they sit down for a family dinner. They spend hours away from their family and risk their lives to help others—all for no pay. Volunteer fireman Carl Anderson says, "I feel like this is my calling." Only six of the CFD are paid firefighters, all others, including other fire departments in the county, are strictly volunteer. They get a pager and their bunker gear. The rest is their responsibility. Spouses play an important role as well—they have to be very understanding and supportive. Brenda Giles, wife of firefighter Gene Giles says, "You never know what each day brings, but I depend on faith that God will carry them through. I never resent Gene having to leave on a moment's notice—it's an honor for him to be able to serve the community."
A major obstacle for fighting fires is getting enough good people to man the fires. Fire departments are always looking for good volunteers, especially the smaller departments in the county. If you feel you have what it takes to be a volunteer firefighter, give one of the organizations a call. To find out more about the CFD, visit their website at www.carthagetexas.com/fire .
With the increase in fires the last few months, fire safety is more important than ever.