Firefighters respond to RV fire near Halltown, Mo.

Published: Dec. 23, 2019 at 9:33 AM CST
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Fire departments from two different counties battled a RV fire near Halltown, Mo. Monday morning.

The firefighters responded to 3215 Lawrence County Road 1250 around 9 a.m. The fire destroyed the RV and one trailer, while damaging two nearby campers. Nobody was hurt in the fire.

Callers to 911 could see the smoke rising while driving on I-44.

The Mt. Vernon fire department is about 20 miles from the RV fire, but it was the first one to get to the scene, because the closest department didn't have available volunteers. Lawrence County Sheriff and Mt. Vernon fire chief Brad Delay says, lately, that's a common problem for rural fire districts.

As the fire ripped through Dodd's RV campground in Halltown's district Monday morning, crews from five other departments- Ash Grove, Mt. Vernon, West Republic, Miller and Bois D'Arc- responded, stepping up during a challenging time.

"They apparently didn't have anybody available today that I'm aware of," said Delay.

Delay said the fire, which was called in around 8:45 in the morning, happened at one of the worst times of the day, while many volunteers are at their regular jobs. Monday, there was the added problem of it being a holiday week.

"People are burning vacation time, they're off seeing families in other towns. It does make it even more difficult simply because those people are even less available now," Delay said.

When seconds count, a lack of volunteer firefighters can tack minutes onto response times. Delay believes most small departments struggle to find enough volunteers.

"So that is terrifying for those residents that live out there," he said.

Part of that is because it takes a rare breed to be ready to respond to an emergency at any moment. Delay said he was supposed to be taking his grandchildren to see Christmas lights Monday, but instead, was working to fight fires.

"You miss a lot of family activities, you miss different things, you miss meals, you miss sleep, but still, those people are out there and we're still looking for those people," he said.

That's why, Delay said, mutual aid agreements and teamwork between departments are vital.

He said his crew trains with other departments and sends manpower to other jurisdictions to help out on certain emergency calls, and they return the favor.

"We're here to help our community," he said. "Halltown is as much a part of our community as it is anywhere else. So we'll do everything we can to help support them."

Right now, the Mt. Vernon Fire Protection District has about 25 people on its roster, but Delay said a second station is set to open in about a month and he's looking for volunteers.

He said it doesn't take much to become a volunteer firefighter.

“Basically, if you show up as a warm body, those departments will put you to work. We’ll find something for you," he said.

Delay said anyone interested in volunteering should contact their local fire department.