Volunteer firefighters fail to show up at fire

January 12, 2010 3:42:50 PM PST
Some homeowners in the Fort Bend community of Fresno may be a bit nervous. That's because none of the city's volunteer firefighters showed up to a house fire over the weekend. The chief says all of the pagers were working, but he's promised to get answers for this family. They say they are devastated and betrayed that their own fire department never showed up

Bryan Anderson is looking at his 3,800 square foot home in disbelief. Just the fact that his house caught fire Sunday morning is hard to accept. Harder still is the fact that not a single firefighter from the Fresno Volunteer Fire Department showed up to fight the fire.

He asked, "If we can't depend on our local fire department, who do you depend on?"

The Fresno Volunteer Fire Department is four minutes away. But when Anderson called 911, it was the Missouri City Fire Department that responded. By the time they arrived, it was too late.

"I'm not really angry but I am disappointed," Anderson said.

Other departments also came later, but Fresno never did. Firefighters say that may not have mattered. This neighborhood has no hydrants and getting water to the fire was difficult.

Missouri City Fire Department Chief Russell Sander said, "Setting up that does take a little bit of time, but they did set up an effective water shuttle."

A spark from the fireplace is believed to have caused the fire. Anderson, his wife and their two young children smelled smoke and escaped unharmed. But they had moved in just six months ago and had just completed a $30,000 renovation. The Fresno fire chief admits it's unacceptable.

"I'm looking into things," Fresno Volunteer Fire Department Chief Paul Hamilton said. "There's probably going to be some shaving of people who haven't been around here in a while."

He says he does not know why not a single firefighter responded, but he also says the word volunteer means just that.

"You can't make people be some place," Hamilton said.

That brings little comfort to Anderson, whose dream house went up in smoke.

Many communities in our area rely solely on volunteer fire departments. There are requirements to becoming a volunteer firefighter. According to VolunteerFD.org, all firefighters are required to take a minimum 110 hour course that's certified by the National Fire Protection Association. Most departments also have a physical testing requirement. Many require a minimum number of volunteer hours per month. And volunteer firefighters do not get paid.