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Money raised at the Oakalla Volunteer Fire Department’s bi-annual fajita dinner and auction Saturday will keep firefighters trained, maintain and expand equipment, and help pay off the financing on two new firetrucks.
“We pretty much have to survive on what we raise,” said Fire Chief Ricky Smith, who is also a volunteer.
The Emergency Service District pays for insurance and some maintenance on the vehicles and the fire department also gets some funding from the county.
The dinner and auction raised $20,000 with expenses at about $6,000. Planning for the event starts 90 days out with everyone bringing their unique talents and abilities to the table, said Jeanie Smith, one of the organizers.
Money raised will be used to add an additional water collection system, which the fire chief said is invaluable since there are no fire hydrants at the station and few throughout the area. “We hope to put in another tank and double what we do can do now and then triple it,” he said. “Water is getting to be real scarce.”
The station’s water collection tank holds 35,000 gallons of water and all of the fire trucks are equipped to carry water including a 10,000 gallon tanker and numerous brush trucks that hold 3,000-5,000 gallons of water each.
“With no fire plugs out there, water that we can carry is all the water that we have,” Jeanie Smith said. “Fortunately, Kempner helps us refill our trucks.”
The department covers a 100-mile radius and responds to 100 to 150 calls annually, many of which are medical assistance accidents. The department also provides mutual aid to Burnet, Briggs, Copperas Cove, Kempner and Lampasas.
In 1999, a new Oakalla Fire Station was built with mainly state and federal grant money increasing the building size from 800 square feet to 6,000 square feet. In 1994, the station had just one fire truck and used CB radios. Today, the department maintains seven fire trucks and has 22 volunteers.