Abilene-area woman loses home to fire after long response time from understaffed VFD

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ABILENE, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – An Abilene-area woman lost a home after a long response time from the nearby volunteer fire department.

“It’s a total loss,” said Vivian Cargill. “My son called me about 5:04 Thursday evening and said the property was on fire.” 

After calling 911, Cargill says she waited about 30 minutes for any first responders to arrive. 

“Whatever the nearest county is is who will be responding to their incident,” said Abilene Fire Chief Cande Flores. 

It was the Hawley volunteer Fire Department’s jurisdiction to respond first, but due to short staff and a chief out on medical leave, they called Abilene for mutual aid 15 minutes after getting the initial call from dispatch. 

“And that’s one of the choices you make when you buy a house in the country,” said Robby Patterson, volunteer firefighter in Anson. 

Patterson, who was the third department to arrive, says long response time is one problem facing volunteer fire departments. 

“Everybody is a volunteer, we don’t have any paid firefighters in Jones County,” said Patterson. 

Chief Flores says even though Cargill’s property is close to Abilene, the home is in Jones County. 

“This is kind of our circumstances right now, volunteer fire departments are understaffed, they don’t have all the resources they need, they are looking for solutions,” said Flores. 

Abilene firefighters were first on the scene 12 minutes after getting the call for help from Hawley. 

A Hawley volunteer firefighter says unfortunately waiting 30 to even 45 minutes is normal since VFD all over the country are understaffed. 

Chief Flores says there has been conversation about making a new agreement to better support the rural areas.

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