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Volunteer Firefighters Brave the Fire in Parker, Texas

Volunteer firefighters douse the flames during a structure fire in Parker, Texas.
Volunteer firefighters douse the flames during a structure fire. (Photo courtesy Parker Volunteer Fire Department)

The ranch is eerily quiet and horridly hot, even if it is after midnight on an August night. Suddenly the silence is shattered by the sounds of nervous livestock, fighting to get free from the restraints of the barn walls. Looking out the window, your heart stops as flames leap in the distance, gaining momentum as they spread across the dry grasslands you live on. With so much at stake, who are you going to call?

Prior to 1982, the citizens of Parker, Texas would have had to contact firefighters in Plano because they didn’t have an agency of their own. Rather, they paid the Plano department every time they had to come out for an emergency. Although this worked for a while, things changed when Plano officials switched their fee schedule from a per call system to an annual fixed rate one.

That January, resident Lou Matteson and the city council decided to help establish the Parker Volunteer Fire Department. By spring 1983, the community had built a fire station and obtained a fire engine and other needed equipment. They began answering calls for help by May of that year.

Since that time, the Parker Fire Department has built a 3,600-square-foot firehouse, added a second fire engine in 2003 and a brush truck in 2004. In July 2005, the department expanded its training room and storage facility.

Now Mike Sheff, one of the founding members of the department, serves as the current fire chief since his acceptance of the position in 2005. He continues to build the department in the tradition of the men who came before him and strives to maintain a membership of around 40 volunteers at any given time.

The department moved into their current station at 5700 E. Parker Rd. in 2009.

All members of the fire department, from Chief Sheff to the newest recruit, all work on a voluntary basis to keep their community safe. They hold down regular jobs, juggle family and civic responsibilities, and still make sure they have enough time to respond to emergency calls.

Whether the department is required to put out structure or grass fires, respond to automobile collisions or medical calls, they are prepared to deal with practically any situation someone might call 911 to handle.

Prior to answering their first call though, every new recruit is paired with a mentor firefighter and goes through intensive training to ensure their own survival while helping others.

Because this is a volunteer department, the firefighters hold fundraisers to pay for the expensive medical and firefighting equipment necessary to accomplish their jobs. Their 29th annual fundraiser has the theme, “Raise Funds, Not Taxes” and will be held on Sept. 22 at Southfork Ranch from 5 – 10 p.m.

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