Fundraiser raises needed money for MVFD
The fundraiser for the Matagorda Volunteer Fire Department was a “awesome success,” according to Gail Cook, treasurer for the MVFD.
“We just want to thank all of Matagorda,” Cook said.
According to Cook, the fundraiser raised $33,000 for MVFD selling 104 plates over last year’s total with a total sales of 674 plates of BBQ this year.
“We also need to thanks all the MVFD members that helped make this happen,” Cook said. “We have a great team and it was a team effort and we prevailed.”
Matagorda VFD operates fire stations in Matagorda and Selkirk. The MVFD service area is 130 square miles including 23 miles of remote beach. Additionally, Matagorda VFD serves as a mutual aid partner to all other fire departments in Matagorda county.
Matagorda VFD is a 100 percent volunteer community service organization with no paid staff. The department receives some funding from the county, but we are primarily a donation and grant funded organization.
Matagorda VFD is a registered 501(C)(3) organization so all donations are tax deductible.
According to MVFD Chief Clay Bishop, the fire department has two military Humvees and an F350 set up as grass trucks. Bishop said the Humvees do not have modern safety features, cannot be driven in the rain, beat up our firefighters, and tend to break down almost every time they go to a fire.
“Our first priority this year is to replace one of these Humvees as soon as possible,” Bishop said. “This will give our department two modern and reliable grass trucks which is the minimum we need to fight small to medium size grass fires. This truck will be based on a 4x4 F350 chassis with aluminum flatbed, off-road tires and will utilize the newest skid unit the department purchased last year.
“This will create a very lightweight attack truck with the minimum features we need at a much lower cost than a production or custom grass truck,” Bishop said. “The planned budget for this vehicle is $53,000. The fire department currently has $23,000 in savings allocated to this project so we need to raise an additional $30,000 through grants and/or donations.”
Bishop said the other Humvee will likely be replaced in a few years when the departments hopes to get a $100k grant for a new higher capacity custom brush truck. The application for that grant was submitted over a year ago and MVFD is a few years down the waiting list.
The budget for that truck will likely be between $135k-$150k with $100K coming from the Texas Forest Service grant.
Bishop said a big area that needs improvement is in recruiting of new members to the department.
“In order to respond to the growing number of calls, the department needs to recruit, train and retain new volunteer First Responders,”Bishop said.“With almost 70 percent of our calls being medical assist calls, there is a critical need for volunteers willing to commit to training and responding to these types of calls, as well as fires and other emergencies.”
Bishop said training the volunteers is also a challenge for the department.
“In 2019 our department will focus on firefighting drills and practical medical skills during our training nights,” Bishop said. “New volunteers will receive in person and online/video training coordinated by the Training Officer. Volunteers seeking certifications will be sent to classes taught by accredited organizations.”
The department funds travel and class costs for approved trainings with some funding coming from the Texas Forest Service.
Bishop said the department desperately needs to replace its Jaws of Life as well.
The department currently has an old (maybe 15 years) set of spreaders and cutters. This older system is not capable of cutting new vehicles with ultra high strength steel Bishop said.
“We need to purchase a new spreader, cutter, ram and hydraulic power unit in order to provide expedient vehicle rescue. This will cost approximately, $26K,” Bishop said.
With the arrival of Hurricane Harvey two years ago, Bishop said the department is now working on developing a plan for this year’s hurricane season.
“During Hurricane Harvey, emergency services were significantly disrupted in our area and throughout the county,” Bishop said. “While we were lucky, our county is still not prepared for a major natural disaster.”
The Matagorda Volunteer Fire Department will develop a plan prior to the 2019 hurricane season to ensure that emergency services remain available in the area at all times when possible.