WAUKOMIS, Okla. —
“Nobody thinks about us until they need us,” Maly said. Volunteer fire departments often are undervalued and over-looked. But those serving on them are there because they choose to be.
Kokojan chose to join to better the community.
“It’s been a great venture,” he said. “It’s a way to give back to the community.”
Maly said that firefighting “got in the blood.” He watched his great uncle, the assistant fire chief at the time, fight a house fire. He saw Maly watching and put him to work. Maly has “been there ever since.”
Hornberger’s desire to be a fireman “ran in his blood,” too — his father was a fireman.
“Ever since I was little, I wanted to be a fireman,” he said.
Beebe was a volunteer at the Pioneer-Skeleton Creek Fire Department before moving to Waukomis in 2008. Although he gets the occasional playful joke for being a deputy, he said everyone has a common interest: helping people and protecting property. He said the cross-training between being a deputy and firefighting helps him in responding to many situations.
“You get to see a bunch of stuff,” Beebe said.
When someone joins the Waukomis department, he or she is put on probation for a year. They have to complete 148 hours of firefighter training to officially be on the department.
Waukomis also participates in storm spotting and the Garfield County Task Force, a search-and-rescue team. The department tries to keep up with training in other areas such as HAZMAT and paramedical and keep training to “keep skills honed,” Hornberger said. Some volunteers are certified instructors, so they can teach their own classes.
“We can train ourselves right there at the station,” Maly said.
Thanks to the Garfield County rural fire sales tax first approved by voters in 1996, and which currently dedicates a tenth of a penny to funding all rural fire departments in the county, Waukomis has been able to keep up and get new equipment. The tax is scheduled to expire at the end of next year, and a vote on extending the tenth of a cent tax will go before county voters for approval in October.