Cooperative Living recently spoke with Tim Lawson, district chief of the Huguenot Volunteer Fire Department, and Michael Walker, president of the Fine Creek Volunteer Fire Department. Keep reading to find out more about why they fight fires and why they believe Santa Runs are important for the community.
District chief of the Huguenot Volunteer Fire Department
Q: Why do you enjoy volunteering for the Huguenot Volunteer Fire Department?
A: I love it, and it gives me a feeling of satisfaction that people can call us in their worst moments and that I can be there, with my team, to help them and support them. Not just from a firefighting perspective, but we also help out emotionally as well. To be able to do that, it’s a feeling like no other. It just makes you feel good all over.
Q: How did the Santa Runs begin at your station?
A: Our Santa Runs began when COVID first hit. We had noticed that departments across the country were doing first-responder outreach programs to boost morale and bring some holiday spirit. Once we saw what a big hit it was, that’s when we decided to add Santa and Mrs. Claus to our Santa Runs moving forward.
Q: Why do you think the Santa Runs are an important community outreach event for your department?
A: I think it’s important to show that we’re out spreading holiday cheer. We want to be out in our community as much as possible, and let people know that we’re here to support them. We have newborns up to folks who are more tenured and seasoned in life coming out to smile and wave at us as we drive by.
Q: Why is it important for children to see you outside of an emergency situation?
A: If I was a five-year-old and I saw a firefighter coming at me breathing air and sounding like Darth Vader, I’d be scared too. So it’s important that they see us as regular people in the community — in our basic station uniforms and not with our air masks on and all of our gear.
Q: Please tell us a little bit about yourself.
A: I work for a defense contractor, and my wife and I have four grandchildren ranging in age from 8 to 22.
Q: Do you have a memorable fire story that you can share?
A: It was a two-story house that was on fire. Our crew was sent in to search the building because they thought there was a victim left inside the house. As we entered the building, there was a lot of fire and smoke. We started to go downstairs into the basement of the house — and we had tested the stairwell as we were going down, which is one of the techniques they teach us — but we really did not know the amount of fire that was down there. My buddy firefighter and I were about halfway down the stairwell when it collapsed, and we landed in the basement on top of each other. Thankfully, there was an exterior door and we were able to vacate the basement safely. But being on that stairwell when it collapsed is something that is forever going to be ingrained in my memory.
Q: Have you ever rescued a kitten?
A: I have never rescued a kitten, no. Not yet, at least.
Q: What kind of training does your department go through?
A: We constantly train, whether it’s in-house training or professional-delivered training. It’s non-stop because once you take the basic fire courses, it just opens up the door for other types of training that you can do. On the EMS side, you have continuous education training that you have to do every couple of years just to maintain your certification. We’re always training, whether it’s here at the station, visiting a training facility somewhere, or at home in our online system doing training.
You Know the Drill … STOP, DROP AND VOLUNTEER!
Volunteer fire departments need volunteers with various types of knowledge, skills and abilities. To learn how to become a volunteer and make a difference in your community, contact your local volunteer fire department for more information.
“We’re always looking for volunteers. No matter what your age is, there is always something you can contribute to help our community out,” explains Michael Walker, president of Fine Creek Volunteer Fire Department.
Click here to read more about Santa runs.
President of the Fine Creek Volunteer Fire Department
Q: Why did you decide to become a volunteer for the Fine Creek Volunteer Fire Department?
A: We moved here from Chesterfield and my wife and I have both had connections to Powhatan since we were younger people. I wanted to give back to the community and I was finally in a place where I could do it.
Q: Do you enjoy being a member of Southside Electric Cooperative?
A: I do. Where we moved from previously was prone to a lot of power outages and when the power went out, it stayed out for a while. We’ve seen some outages here lately due to weather, but the restoration was very timely. So we enjoy being members of the co-op.
Q: Do you celebrate Christmas and, if so, what does it mean to you? And in what way do the Santa Runs capture the spirit of the holidays?
A: We do celebrate Christmas. Christmas is about traditions and family. My wife and I have kind of blended how we celebrate Christmas between the traditions of her family and the traditions of my family. In the same way, I think the Santa Runs have become traditions for some people’s families in our district. So by doing the Santa Runs, it kind of fulfills that need to give back to the community and then to also see the smiles on the kids’ faces when they get to see Santa and sit on his lap.
Q: What would you say is the general reaction of the community to what you guys are doing with the Santa Runs?
A: A lot of people do come back to our Facebook page and say thank you. We also have a lot of people come up to us and thank us when we’re there actually doing it. The thing about doing the Santa Runs is it gives firefighters the opportunity to meet the people that we serve. We get to meet them on a day that isn’t the worst day of their life. Whether it’s a traffic accident, a fire, or a medical emergency — it affects us the same way it affects the families.
Q: When you go on the Santa Runs, what is that experience like for you?
A: I’ve done everything from driving one of the vehicles to being someone who helps kids in and out of the truck. I find it rewarding because it brings joy to families and gets people out and meeting their neighbors. I love being able to provide an opportunity for that.
Q: Please tell us a little more about yourself.
A: My wife and I live in Powhatan with our two dogs and two cats. My full-time employment is with a large health insurer, where I have worked for 21 years.
Q: November is National Child Safety & Protection Month. What efforts are made by your station to reach out to the community and increase awareness of child safety and protection?
A: I don’t think we do anything specifically for that, but we do Fire Prevention Week where we focus on child safety. During the holiday season, we also have the Keep the Wreath Green Program. We provide tips and those tips are probably something we would use in November about child safety. Another thing we do is host open houses, where we have a firefighter put on all his gear, including the air tank. We bring the kids into the station and explain to them that this is what a firefighter may look like if he’s coming to fight a fire in your house — and he’s not someone to be afraid of.
Q: When it comes to children, what kind of training do you all undergo?
A: During a house fire, there is so much smoke in there that you can’t see your hand in front of you, so you learn how to search rooms and keep your orientation. One thing we learn is to always look under the bed in a child’s room.