Eula, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – When flames threaten rural Texas communities, it’s volunteer fire fighters like Eula Fire Chief Roy Galinak who answer the call. As often as those calls have been flooding in lately, these volunteers have to clock out of their full-time jobs to respond to the emergency. It’s just one issue Chief Galinak would like to see remedied.
“Right now, there’s no protection for me as a fireman,” Chief Galinak explained. “If I leave work, my boss could fire me.”
Thankfully, Chief Galinak said his boss has been accommodating of his schedule. Be that as it may, Chief Galinak said he wished all Texas volunteer first responders could have that same assurance.
It was issues like this that led to the introduction of Texas House Bill 786 in 2017, a bill Chief Galinak said he fully supports.
“Their employers couldn’t take employment action against them for responding to an emergency,” Chief Galinak explained.
Under HB 786, volunteer first responders who work for companies employing 20 or more would be guaranteed at least 14 days of leave to respond to emergencies, without fear of dismissal.
“It’s a good bill, I mean our volunteer fire fighters, they give everything they can,” said Texas District 71 Representative, Stan Lambert.
Lambert told KTAB/KRBC he remembers much support being voiced for the bill, though concerns of fairness towards employers proved to be the main hurdle.
“Small businesses with only three or four employees, they don’t have much room to turn to as far as replacing somebody that’s out fighting a wildfire,” Lambert explained.
After undergoing a few minor tweaks, the bill has yet to pass. It leaves firefighters like Chief Galinak to continue to make the difficult daily decision between duty and employment.
“We love doing it, we love helping our community, but it doesn’t pay the bills at our house,” Chief Galinak added. “We also have to live.”