At 3:13 a.m. Monday, Victoria Fire Department got a call about a burning house in Mission Valley.

Volunteer firefighters from Mission Valley, Quail Creek and Nursery joined them on the scene with tanker trucks and helped prevent the fire from spreading to a small metal building adjacent to the home.

For many of us, rolling out of bed in the middle of the night to try to save a burning building would not come easily. But for volunteer firefighters in the Crossroads, it is second nature.

Blake Weise, fire chief of Weesatche VFD, recently said he fights fires “ to help out not just my family but everybody when they’re having the worst day they’ve ever had.”

It is particularly because of their selflessness and devotion to their communities that volunteer firefighters deserve our support now more than ever.

Of the roughly 50 fire departments in the seven-county region Roel Esparza manages as Victoria’s regional fire coordinator with the Texas A&M Forest Service, about 45 of them are staffed by volunteers, he said.

But many of those departments had to cancel their usual fundraisers in 2020 due to the pandemic, which is making it difficult for them to cover the many expenses it takes to run a fire department, from insurance and fuel to protective equipment and vehicle maintenance.

“Without the community support for departments like ours, you can’t survive,” said Sarah Stauss, treasurer for Ander-Weser VFD.

Stauss’s husband Eric Stauss said departments are also in need of more volunteers to fill roles from fighting fires to applying for grants to taking notes at meetings.

Anyone who is in a position to support volunteer firefighters in their community should do so, whether it’s community members stepping up to donate money or volunteer, local officials trying to find a little bit of extra funding for them, or the oil companies who often chip in money and equipment to help departments run stepping up once again.

At a time when we are often isolated and disconnected from our neighbors, the dedication of volunteer fire departments is a reminder of how important it is to put our communities first and care for each other.

They’re there for us when we need them. So we need to be there for them.

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This opinion reflects the views of the Victoria Advocate’s editorial board.

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