By LIBBY CLUETT
It's rare that I get to relay a story in first person. I'm glad for the chance to share my thoughts and experiences on why it is important to support local volunteer fire departments, especially when they have fundraisers, like the Mineral Wells VFD has Saturday, 3-7 p.m., with its Fajita Feed.
The quick answer to the question is “they protect people.” But it takes more than most people think to do that, which I found out, first hand, last Saturday.
I was given a unique opportunity – and I don't often use the word unique – thanks to the Mineral Wells Volunteer Fire Department and Captain Jerry VanNatta, to suit up and go into a burning building – by choice. The department was conducting training, burning the old Gene Lee house and adjacent rent house for the property owners.
When I arrived, as planned, VanNatta had the bunker gear ready. First I slipped out of my shoes and into his leather fire boots and bunker pants, tightened the suspenders, and then donned James Brooks' bunker coat and a Nomex hood. Brooks made sure the coat was secured and all the loose ends were under the Nomex hood, telling me could burn if not tucked in.
VanNatta handed me his fire helmet, which seemed very heavy at first. I walked toward the group of firefighters going in shifts into the building wearing the red captain's helmet.
There were at least 30 firefighters on hand, nearly half of whom were in training, including Seth Jacobson. A new firefighter with about two months on the force, according to VanNatta, Jacobson was very nice, greeted me and lent me his fire gloves, airpack SCBA and SCBA mask, so I could safely enter the burning house. He made sure I had everything on correctly, that all was strapped on and the mask was airtight.