Hometown Patriots - Volunteer firefighters and EMTs

They are called on at all hours of the day or night, performing physically demanding work with hours of training and for no pay at all. They are volunteer firefighters and Emergency Medical Technicians; they are probably someone you know.

"We usually work in an area where we know everybody or are pretty familiar with everybody," said Dwayne Thevis, president of the Louisiana State Firemen's Association. "You're going to get that call one day that you'll roll up and it'll be one of your family members or whatever. We do our jobs, family member or not. We don't look back on what it is."

Ward Six Fire Chief Tim Gilland says there's a shortage of volunteer firefighters and EMTs not only in Calcasieu parish but nationwide.

"The United States, as far as fire protection, is covered by 70 to 72 percent by volunteers," cites Gilland. "Right now we're at about a forty percent drop in membership. So we definitely need help."

Many families are involved in volunteer fire departments. At Ward Six, which serves the area between Houston River and DeQuincy, Desiree and Kevin Jones are called on from time to time. When it comes to answering fire calls, the Joneses are trying to keep up with each other.

"She usually beats me," admits Kevin, who is a slot machine technician at Delta Downs. His wife also works at the track. "She usually makes more calls than I do. "She's a little younger than me. She's more fit than I am."

"Most volunteers are somebody that's wanting to give back to their community," said Thevis. "They just want to help their fellow man. A real caring and giving person."

Westlake Fire Chief Jacques Picou is president of the Louisiana Fire Chiefs Association.  He says to learn more about becoming a volunteer firefighter, go to www.vfdla.org

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