Water is like liquid gold in Oakalla when a fire breaks out. Lack of fire hydrants has the local volunteer fire department developing ways to store water through its fire trucks and water containment systems.
The Oakalla Volunteer Fire Department purchased one water containment system and plans to purchase another with money raised in the bi-annual dinner auction held earlier this month.
The station’s water collection tank holds 35,000 gallons of water. The fire trucks also are equipped to carry water, including a 10,000-gallon tanker and brush trucks that hold 3,000 to 5,000 gallons.
“With no fire plugs out there, water that we can carry is all the water that we have. Fortunately, Kempner helps us refill our trucks,” said Jeanie Smith, a volunteer with the Oakalla Volunteer Fire Department.
The department covers 100 miles 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.
“We hope to put in another (water) tank and double what we can do now and then triple it. Water is getting to be real scarce,” said Volunteer Fire Chief Ricky Smith. “We pretty much have to survive on what we raise.”
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 fajita dinner and auction earlier this month raised $20,000 with expenses around $6,000.
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 1984, the station had one fire truck and was using CB radios.
Today, the volunteer fire department maintains seven fire trucks and 22 volunteers.