A s this editorial is being written, the Rockdale Volunteer Fire Department has fought three house fires within a period of a little more than one week.
Volunteers are still on the site of a wreck scene, the fourth more-or-less major wreck to which they have responded during that same time period.
And they’ve handled all of them thoroughly and professionally, as they always do. The Rockdale VFD continues to be as fine a small town fire department as you’ll find anywhere and, as far as those of use who see them on a regular basis are concerned, you can take the words “small town” out of that sentence.
If you go to fires, wrecks and other emergency calls on a regular basis you might notice that you’ll see the same faces over and over. That just goes with living in a small town but it’s been even more in evidence over the past few years.
Participation is dwindling. It doesn’t take much detective work to figure out why. Since Alcoa closed there are more RVFD members working out of town than ever before. The town’s major industrial employer is now Luminant’s Three Oaks Mine, which isn’t even in Milam County.
And RVFD members employed there work 12-hour shifts, different from the old 8-hour shifts at Alcoa. Rockdale was in that 8-hour rhythm for 56 years, so it’s quite a change.
The price of gas has also been a factor. Sure the RVFD has fire trucks but many still go to calls in their own vehicles which— guess what?—burn their own gas.
What to do to bring participation back up? First idea was to grant firefighters free water on a basic portion of their bills, like city employees get. But many volunteers live outside the city limits and wouldn’t have been affected.
Other area cities have had success with a small supplement based not on membership, but on calls actually answered. The RVFD has proposed, and the city accepted, a $5-per call supplement for qualified Rockdale volunteer firefighters, not newcomers, those with at least a year’s training.
It’s money well spent. In fact it is the perfect use of taxpayer money. Rockdale taking care of Rockdale in the most literal sense of the word.
Good job, RVFD, for coming up with a solution and the city for signing off on it.—M.B.