For decades, the Crawford Women's Fire Auxiliary has provided support for the Crawford Fire Department.
In an effort to improve its support, the auxiliary recently changed its name to the Crawford Fire Auxiliary. "We took the 'women's' out because we want everybody to feel like they can participate," said auxiliary president Tristan Pfeffer.
The first focus of the auxiliary remains the same: to provide support through raising of funds and to help the firemen and purchase additional items that aren't in the budget. In their immediate plans, the department is looking to install a washer and dryer and shower at the station. They also need a larger water heater.
Pfeffer said that statistics show that firemen are most likely to die from exposure to chemicals while fighting fires. The department currently has no way to wash their uniforms or shower upon returning from a call. The auxiliary has accumulated some money over the years and is looking for a contractor who can do the job within their small budget.
Also on the list of priorities is to have volunteers take food, water and supplies to the scene of a fire. After a fire is extinguished, the department must monitor it for 24 hours to ensure it doesn't flair up, said Pfeffer. They're also putting together "Go Bags" containing toiletries, bottled water and other items for those who are impacted by the fire, said Pfeffer, who has experienced the trauma of losing everything in a fire. Some bags will contain stuffed animals to give to small children. That will help them for the first 24 hours while waiting for the American Red Cross, said Pfeffer.
The auxiliary is also looking to local and regional businesses for gift cards, toothbrushes and other donations.
Volunteers also raise funds for the Pioneer Days fireworks display, scheduled for June 11. Donations are coming in from throughout the county, said auxiliary vice president Cathy Cheatham. They're also considering summer events like live music and pie auctions to get more people involved.
What the department really needs, said Pfeffer, "is more people." With the department down to 14 volunteers, "That is a huge thing."
Pfeffer said she asked Fire Chief Joseph Inman about the commitment a firefighter must make. He replied that they must be able to get to the station from home within 10-15 minutes, attend meetings the second and fourth Wednesdays of the month, attend classes and training, help the community and neighbors, and learn to communicate with and rely upon people they may not always agree with or like. Training is provided, and participants must be willing to sign a three-year commitment.
Cheatham said it really hit her at their first meeting how much they give and how willing the local firefighters are to risk their well-being. "We asked them what we can do for them, and their first response was to take care of the people impacted by the fire," she said. "Hats off to this group of guys."