Local volunteer firefighter talks about why he serves - WRBL

Local volunteer firefighter talks about why he serves

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Chief Skip Wyatt Chief Skip Wyatt

Some of the causalities at the West, Texas fertilizer plant explosion could include three to four volunteer firefighters.

When Ellerslie Volunteer Fire Department Chief Skip Wyatt heard about the missing firefighters he became very emotional. "It's bad, but it happens. We just have to keep going." Seventy percent of U.S. firefighters are volunteers and Wyatt said the job usually creates a brotherhood.

For the better part of 20 years, he has served the volunteer fire department in Ellerslie. For the last four, he's been its leader.

By trade, Wyatt sells and installs fireplaces. He's been married for two decades and is a doting father to a 12-year-old boy.

But anytime his alarm sounds, he rushes to the emergency. "Ain't nobody out here to respond. If you don't have a volunteer fireman around... we get called for everything."

Wyatt joked and said they're known as "paying" firefighters since they all pay for their own gas, radios and give their time. But most, including him, love every minute because they're serving their neighbors.

"You just never know when somebody's going to need you... and that person, sitting there being right there by their self. And you're there all of a sudden it's the best thing in the world, you can comfort," Wyatt said.

But no department is immune to tragedy and Chief Wyatt said his unit is has suffered. On November 12, 2005 Captain Kevin Joe Foster died when his fire truck hit a tree.

"We have to watch everything; no matter what. Once you get in these trucks. It's just a whole other world," said Wyatt. But he said there are also good times, like creating lasting friendships and knowing they can help whenever danger is near.

Wyatt says he will continue to serve until he is unable. Ellerslie has about 20 volunteer firefighters.

Sydney Cameron

Sydney joined the WRBL news team in December 2011 after working as a freelance reporter in Washington, D.C. More>>

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