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Heroes without capes: Getting to know the Walker Church Fire Department

April 23, 2021 - 00:00
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    Firefighters perform a training drill at the burn building located behind the fire department. CONTRIBUTED
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    Firefighters from Walker Church and other departments train on the Jaws of Life tool that allows them to remove people trapped in cars following an accident.
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    Jeff Vredenburgh and Todd Anthony fight a fire.
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    A view of the Walker Church Fire Department.
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    Inside the newest fire truck shows the gear and seats that the firefighters use when off to an emergency. They have 60 seconds to get into the gear, including breathing apparatus.
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    Water is sprayed from the two fire boats on Lake Oconee.
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    Jeff Vredenburgh and Todd Anthony after the fire.

According to one dictionary, a hero is a person noted for courageous acts of nobility, someone with special achievements, abilities or personal qualities and regarded as a role model.

A hero is someone who often puts his own life at risk for the greater good of others.

It is this writer’s opinion that firefighters suit this description to perfection, including those at Walker Church Fire Department.

It is well known that firefighters put out fires and respond to emergencies, are extensively trained in their duties, and rescue people and animals from dangerous situations.

In the “fire world,” fire trucks are known as “apparatus.” Walker Church Fire Department has one that carries 3,000 gallons of water, another 1,500 gallons and the third, 1,000 gallons. The trucks can then be filled on site by other tankers, thus ensuring a constant flow of water. They also have a supply of hoses totaling 2,000 feet. The hoses are anywhere from three to five inches in diameter.

Of the two fire water boats that are operated by this fire department, one pumps 2,200 gallons per minute and the other over 500 gallons a minute to extinguish a boat fire or a shore fire.

Fire departments are usually the primary agency that responds to an emergency involving hazardous materials. Under the command of Chief Bryon Lombard, the Walker Church firefighters respond on an “all-hazards” basis. This means that instead of just house/structure fires, they also respond to grass and woods, vehicle and boat fires as well as rescue calls for dogs in wells, lost persons and vehicle collisions. They use “Jaws of Life” to get free people who are trapped and also answer HazMat calls. Lombard and firefighter Bob Welsh are fully trained HazMat technicians.

Several members are EMT Intermediates and EMT paramedics so they also respond to medical calls. And last but not least, they are busy during hazardous weather dealing with downed trees and power lines, flooded roads and so much more.

There are 10 fire stations in Greene County that cover a primary response area, and all 10 will respond whenever needed within the County. The Walker Church Fire Department covers the Walker Church and Harbor Club areas primarily.

Two drills are performed each month and training is usually done with other departments.

For protection, firefighters wear and carry protective and self-rescue equipment at all times. A self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) delivers air to the firefighter through a full facemask and protects against smoke inhalation, toxic fumes and super-heated gases. To become certified, you must be able to get into standard gear, including breathing apparatus and breathing air in 60 seconds.

The ‘custom’ pumper truck seats six people in full gear, but usually the trucks are sent out with one person in order to get them en route quickly rather than waiting for others to arrive. The trend at the present time is for three to five departments respond to emergencies to ensure enough personnel are on scene.

Greater than 70 percent of the firefighters in Georgia and across the country are volunteers. Two of the Walker Church Fire Department are full time firefighters in Gwinnett County and these two men live in Greensboro and volunteer at Walker Church. The norm for firefighters is 24 hours on call and 48 hours off.

Chief Lombard explained that as volunteers, firefighters routinely interact with people who don’t know that they are indeed volunteers and not on a salary, so during an emergency, they show up in their everyday attire instead of fire gear. Lombard said these are people who have been at work or with their families and not at the fire house when the call comes in, but they will always be there when most needed. He noted that these brave men and women are usually engaged in some way daily in the fire department.

The Walker Church Fire Department encourages anyone interested in volunteering to just start attending the drills that are held on the first and third Wednesday of every month, beginning at 6 p.m. Anyone interested may call the Chief at 706-347-0947 or email blombard30642@gmail.com.

So keep in mind that local brave firefighters save more than homes, they save hearts, memories and dreams. Special thanks to the Walker Church Fire Department - Chief Bryon Lombard, Bob Welsh, Eddie Simms, Jeff Vredenburgh, Jim Pound and Todd Anthony.