KEMPNER — The cars started to arrive in a trickle — one after another. Then, two hours later, the parking lot was filled as residents came out to support the Kempner Volunteer Fire Department’s barbecue and auction Saturday.
“Last year, we had close to 180 people show up,” said Dewey Owen, Kempner’s volunteer fire chief. “This community is our main source of funding for almost everything needed to run this place. Last year’s funds bought the chassis for one of our trucks. This year, we need new firefighter gear.”
“Every little bit helps,” said Todd Burkett, who began volunteering with the station six months ago. “We appreciate what residents are doing for us (today).”
His wife, Linda Burkett, said though it was her first year attending, she was still impressed. “(This event) will do a lot of good.”
“The money we received over the years has also paid for schools and training,” said Calvin Sweet, another volunteer firefighter. “I’ve been an EMT, worked in the sheriff’s department and now I’m here. It’s what I was called to do. And the support we get feels really good.”
Funds also help with other behind-the-scenes services such as the support team’s important role at a fire scene.
“We go out to fires and park away from the site and when firefighters need a break they come to us,” said Liz Demmel, who has been volunteering with the support team since May. “We supply them with water and toilettes to keep them going.” The auction included weight benches and StairMasters, couches and lamps, fire department magnets and cookbooks and everything else in between. The items will go a long way in securing the more than the $34,000 needed to purchase 15 sets of full bunker gear for firefighters this year.
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