Gainesville Daily Register

March 1, 2013

Era thrives on community outreach

By GREG RUSSELL, Register Staff Writer

Era — ERA — Community outreach is exactly what the Era Volunteer Fire Department needs to wrangle its yearly budget, and residents can contribute by way of a fish-fry fundraiser set for March 9.

The annual “Glenn Scott Memorial” dinner begins at 4 p.m. in the cafeteria of the Era Independent School District campus. The event was named after Scott, a firefighter who died of a heart attack in February 1995, after returning from an emergency call.

Treasurer Keith Bentley said his organization has conducted annual fundraisers, at varying levels, for more than 30 years. The department launched more than 40 years ago as a one-truck station after Era Community Club members suggested collaborating with Era Water Commission members to purchase a fire truck.

And today, the dinner is generally the only opportunity his department has to gather its annual purse of around $20,000, which pays for insurance, fire truck fuel, bunker gear and basic upkeep costs.

“It’s the only fundraiser we have,” Bentley said. “It’s what it has to be — to maintain stuff. It’s to maintain the trucks and also to pay off some land we bought next to the fire station, mainly so that we can get the trucks in and out of it.”

The department’s origins

Era Volunteer Fire Department began in 1967, when Paul Hutcherson, Eugene Bentley and Jack House formed a committee to find a fire truck. Cooke County officials eventually sold Era a surplus county truck consisting of a cab and chassis at a nominal fee. The Era volunteers later found a tank for the truck and converted the vehicle to a firefighting machine.

The truck was completed that year and put into service. In 1971, community club members appointed Jack Alexander to help the organization acquire a building to house its vehicle and equipment. Workers poured the foundation for the 32 x 40-foot firehouse building on April 3, 1972.

The fire department incorporated its bylaws Oct. 6, 1975, and in 1976, county officials contributed a two-way radio system for the department.

Today’s department

The Era Volunteer Fire Department currently uses 20 members, all volunteer, who operate from a four-bay station that includes a training room. Four trucks ranging in model from 2001 to 2011 are part of the vehicle volley, and Bentley said they are always the heaviest expense.

“It’s a financial challenge,” he said. “You’re going to dump a couple hundred grand into a truck.”

Grants and donations help the major costs along. But the fire department has always thrived on a regular basis through connections to the community.

Its members presented one of the first fire prevention programs to Era school students in 1976. Department members have also hosted an annual July 4 celebration and participated in a Christmas parade, among other community projects.

Bentley said the connection works both ways, since the nearby public has always eagerly helped his crew.

“It’s great, the support we get from the community and also from the surrounding areas,” he said. “It’s just unbelievable.”

Bentley added that on March 9, dinner visitors can participate in a community membership drive with CareFlite.

Members of the helicopter rescue organization will be at the dinner to enroll families in annual CareFlite memberships at a reduced rate of $10 per year rather than almost $50.

The volunteer fire department is co-sponsoring the membership drive, Bentley said, as a way of thanking area residents for helping finance them.

“It’s just giving them something back, too,” he said. “And for 10 bucks? You hope you never have to use it, but for 10 bucks, it’s a great chance to take.”

Dinner tickets are $8 for adults and $5 for children, and donations to the Era Volunteer Fire Department are tax-deductible.

For more information, call (940) 668-6267. -- Some historical information courtesy of a media release from the Era Volunteer Fire Department.