Fruithurst firefighters run pumps through paces
May 21, 2018
By Bill Wilson
The Anniston Star

The overwhelming roar of engines drowned out any conversation at the Fruithurst Volunteer Fire Department on Monday morning. But the reason for the noise was crucial: Fire trucks from area volunteer fire departments had converged at the Fruithurst station for pump testing, a required annual procedure.

Larry Attison, 73, chief of the Fruithurst Volunteer Fire Department, checked gauges and talked to other firemen as two trucks were tested simultaneously. Pipes and hoses were tethered from each truck to a special testing truck which checked for correct water pressure and gallons per minute flow.

“That’s the way we know that the pump on the truck is capable of pumping what it’s supposed to,” Attison said.

Attison said each test takes about an hour and costs $150 per truck.

“All we have to do is to come up with the money to pay for it and we are happy for another year,” Attison shouted, to overcome the din of the pump testing.

Nine trucks were tested Monday from departments at Piney Woods, Muscadine and Abernathy, in addition to Fruithurst.

If there is a problem with one of the pumps the cost of repairs is between $7,000 and $13,000 each, according to Attison.

Attison said that money is tight. His department receives $23,000 per year from property taxes.

“Insurance will take out about a third of that and then fuel — maybe you’ll have enough money budgeted for two sets of turnouts,” Attison said, referring to firefighting gear including helmets, coats and gloves.

Piney Woods Fire Chief Bernie Pryor, 70, was on top of one of the fire trucks. His seasoned eyes studied the cluster of gauges on a control panel.

Pryor worries about the future of volunteer fire departments in general, citing a study which states, he said, that younger people are not interested in becoming volunteer firefighters.

Even though 90 percent of all fire departments in the U.S. operate with volunteers, according to Pryor, the number of men and women who seek that kind of work is dropping.

“It’s up to the old guys” now, he said, noting that not enough people are coming along to succeed the ones who leave.

“It’s gonna take education. These guys don’t get any money, no benefits whatsoever, zero pay, we can’t afford to pay them,” Pryor said.

“Nobody will work for free anymore,” Attison said.

Attison said once the tests are complete the testing truck will travel to the south end of Cleburne County to test pumps on the engines at the Hollis, Muscadine and Turkey Heaven fire departments.