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Woodcrest Fire Chief Luke Young and firefighter Nick Lovelace volunteer their time to serve the 7,000 citizens who live in their growing rural population. Photo by James Pratt


“If you don’t have a servant’s heart, you don’t need to be in the fire service,” Luke Young, Woodcrest fire chief, says. Young grew up around fire services. His dad is a veteran of Edmond Fire


Department and was captain for 22 years. His brother has followed suit and is the current captain of the same department. Young was once a career firefighter, but he now owns a construction company and volunteers as the chief of Woodcrest Fire Department. Currently, the Woodcrest Fire Department covers 56 square miles, serving about 7,000 people. While many national censuses indicate rural popula- tions are dwindling, Young says he and the surrounding departments are seeing an increase of urbanites moving to rural areas. Woodcrest averages about 400 calls a year. The trend, however, is feast or famine. There may be days without calls, then other days will have several emergencies needing immediate attention. Putting out fires is actually a small part of what volunteer fire services provide. According to the National Volunteer Fire Council, firefighters can respond to emergency medical incidents, terrorist events, natural disasters, hazardous materials incidents, water rescue emergencies, high-angle and confined space emergencies and other public service requests. The majority of volunteer fire departments are now 80 percent medical according to Young. Coyle Fire Department is one of many that has fully transitioned into an emergency response role as well. After becoming


medically certified, Coyle Fire Chief Michael Galbraith says the call load jumped from 50 per year to 125.


“If we weren’t here to provide those services, the nearest help is at least 12 to 15 minutes away,” Galbraith, Central Electric Cooperative member, says.


“That’s the difference between people living and dying.” The cost to provide firefighting and emergency medical equipment is steep. Galbraith can recall a time when the fire station struggled to afford gas to put in the trucks to get to the fires. He would ask the gas station to turn on the pumps and they would make good on the payment when they got back from the fire. “A pool of guys would chip in what they had in their wallets,” Galbraith


says. “We’d all put in $5 or $10 until we had enough.” Now a countywide sales tax covers 99 percent of the station’s funding, but the fiscal challenges for equipment, training and maintenance remain real. There are many ways citizens can volunteer to help these firefighters continue to fight for their communities.


Supporting Those Who Serve When purchasing any property, just like checking the electric provider


and school district, homeowners should investigate to which rural fire dis- trict their property belongs. Firefighters point out often that the city listed


“If you don’t have a servant’s heart, you don’t need to be in the fire service.” - LUKE YOUNG, WOODCREST FIRE CHIEF


14 WWW.OKL.COOP


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