Central Texas volunteer fire department raising money to buy rescue boats

Posted at 10:28 PM, Jun 13, 2016
and last updated 2016-06-13 23:50:05-04

With summer right around the corner, a local fire department is raising money to buy two marine service units.

Central Bell County Fire Rescue, a volunteer fire department located in Nolanville, is maintained mostly through fundraisers.

Currently, the department has one swift-water rescue boat, which helps with rescues in creeks and rivers, but it's not built to be used on lakes like Stillhouse Hollow Lake.

Because the department doesn't have the equipment necessary for water rescues and off-shore firefighting at the lake, among other emergencies, the Morgan's Point Resort Fire Department is the primary responder to Stillhouse Hollow Lake.

"[Our] boats are larger boats made for lake waters where you have higher waves, higher winds, have higher motor horsepower so you can travel a longer distance at a quicker time," Morgan's Point Resort Fire Department Chief John Phillips said.

Central Bell County Fire Rescue Chief Jason Worsdale says it can take "45 minutes to an hour" for Morgan's Point Resort's boats to arrive at Stillhouse Hollow Lake from Belton Lake, where they're moored, when there's an emergency. 

"They have to get to their marina, pull the boats out, and then now with the zebra mussel issue, they have to properly clean them, dry them off, and make sure that there's no zebra mussels on their vessels. When we're talking emergency response, it's just impossible," Worsdale said.

If they had their own boats, Worsdale says they could get to Stillhouse Hollow Lake within five minutes in emergency traffic.

"[But] we haven't responded to the lake because we don't have the equipment to do so," he said.

That's why they're asking for the public's help.

They can get two marine service units, like the ones the Morgan's Point Resort Fire Department uses, and all the equipment their firefighters need for just $25,000.

Normally, most fire departments get their funding from the city, but this one doesn't.

"Every volunteer fire department across Texas and the nation deals with this. The money is not there like it is for large career departments with a large city backing," Worsdale said.

They're raising money on, where they've already raised $150. They're also hosting a crawfish boil fundraiser on June 18 at 4 p.m. at the department's headquarters at 100 North Main Street in Nolanville.

"If you're on a car on the freeway and you have problems, you can pull over to the side [and] wait for help. You have more time," Phillips said. "When you have a swimmer or diver in distress or boat that's broken down and needs help, you can't pull over to the side of the road. You're stuck where you are until boats come out to rescue you."

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