Way back in 1961, a bunch of like-minded folks got together to solve a problem in Medina Lake, Texas. All too often, fires had ravaged homes, vehicles and boats. Occasional wildfires spread with no means of controlling them quickly. And, of course, cats went too far out on a limb.
Those 42 determined citizens, who met at a church, established a volunteer fire department and, within a year, the first fire truck was purchased. Since that time, the men and women of Medina Lake Volunteer Fire Department (MLVFD; www.medinalakevfd.com) have served the Medina Lake area with EMT services, response to traffic and marine accidents, fires and water rescues.
Just a year ago, Medina Lake Fire Rescue received a rescue vessel, putting it into service on Medina Lake. The boat, Marine 1, was formerly a U.S. Coast Guard TPSB Guardian security and rescue craft. MLVFD obtained the mil-spec vessel through a government surplus program. After many volunteer hours and financial donations by the firefighters themselves, the vessel was ready.
MLVFD recently acquired land adjacent to its current facility. There are plans for a new facility to meet growing needs; it will provide much-needed space to store the new rescue boat and fire trucks.
Today, MLVFD is a thriving, 24/7/365 operation consisting of 16 firefighters, of which three are EMTs, five are junior firefighters and six are directors. General membership is about 40 people.
Amazingly, they achieve 100 percent of their operating budget through community donations and fundraisers.
The department serves portions of Bandera and Medina counties — making up 386 square miles — and less than one square mile of that territory has fire hydrants. The rural Texas area has 1,036 residences and businesses with approximately 1,774 residents.
Thanks to Marine 1, it also serves Medina Lake's 6,000 acres of recreational waterways and 110 miles of shoreline. All that without paid staff and it rarely receives any tax support from local, state or federal governments.
“We serve the largest area with the oldest equipment,” says Lee W. Bailey, president of MLVFD. “For instance, our existing tanker is 44 years old and only has a capacity of 1,100 gallons.”
An average two-story house fire requires 11,000 gallons of water. The new tanker they’re now in the midst of buying will allow Medina firefighters to provide significant volumes of water to a fire scene much more rapidly than the existing tanker.
“The increasing number of rural residences and the aging of our fire equipment have made it necessary for us to acquire the large new tanker so we can take the fight to the fire,” Bailey explains. “We need strong, ongoing community support. Contributions don’t necessarily need to be monetary. We’re actively recruiting more members. And it’s important to add that we’re not just looking for firefighters and EMTs, but also for volunteers with computer experience, as well as those who can help with fundraising.”
Water quality, too
One facet of the fire department’s need wasn’t just tied to quantity of water for firefighting, but rather its quality.
Drinking water in the Medina Lake area is known to be very hard and, as a result, contains very high calcium and magnesium mineral content. It also lends to the very high concentration of dissolved solids in the water. Poor water quality of this combination wreaks havoc on internal plumbing, water heaters and some appliances. Typically, water softeners are used to solve these problems.
Due to natural water conditions, MLVFD’s water softener system struggled to improve the facility’s water quality. The hyper-use of their softener system resulted in less than desirable function and threatened the integrity of appliances and the whole plumbing system.
MLVFD had a concern that its system was not only lacking the ability to continue to soften the water, but that it lacked the proper filtration to deliver the highest quality drinking water. Since the source of drinking water for the MLVFD facility is well water, the department needed to evaluate its needs to upgrade their water conditioning system.
As it turns out, MLVFD’s vice president, Sig Swanstrom, is a personal friend of Carla Long, a water quality engineer for Watts. She lives and works nearby.
Swanstrom asked Long if it would be possible to get a replacement softener “at cost” or at a steep discount. Long then asked her manager about donating a water treatment and filtration system.
After evaluating the water usage and testing water samples from the MLVFD’s facility, it was clear that a modest donation of equipment could easily solve their water quality woes.
Just in time for the MLVFD’s annual BBQ and auction, Wayne Adcock, a senior sales rep for Watts, installed a full-treatment water system in the MLVFD facility that will allow them many years of continued community support and service.
Adcock installed a whole-house sediment filter and housing that will remove sand, silt, dirt and rust from the water that enters the facility, as well as an alternating dual-tank water softener that will remove harmful minerals and allow a continuous source of soft water. Also, Adcock installed three up-sized reverse osmosis systems to be used in the kitchen and on the ice-making machines that will deliver bottled-water-quality water.
Rahul Dalia, Sabby Sabharwal, Richard Matinez and Carla Long, members of Watts’ Water Quality Team, represented Watts at the MLVFD BBQ. They offered free water treatment advice and discounted systems to the community.
Watts further supported the needs of the MLVFD by donating three additional water treatment systems. Swanstrom said in response, “The volunteer fire department chief, other volunteers and local community members were very appreciative of the generous donation by Watts,” Swanstrom says.