SWEETWATER, Texas (KTAB/KRBC) – A Facebook post by the Lake Sweetwater Volunteer Fire Department (VFD) has issued an appeal to the community, seeking donations for an emergency response boat. VFD chief Pete Gizzi said the crew currently had no means to respond to emergencies on the water.
“Being only 100 meters from the water, I think we’re letting our community down at this point,” Chief Gizzi said.
The department responds to all kinds of emergencies around the lake and is usually able to respond much faster than the city fire department, due to a proximity difference of approximately 10-15 minutes.
“They are a vital partner… The fire most likely doubles every 30 seconds to a minute. In the event of a residential fire, by the time we get there, that would be a major difference,” Sweetwater Fire Chief Dewey Coy said.
Although the Sweetwater Fire Department and the Nolan County Sheriff’s Office share ownership of a pontoon boat, Sweetwater Lake VFD is rarely able to use it, and it still falls victim to the 15-minute delay .
For reference, the objective response time for a fire crew to arrive at a fire is approximately five minutes.
“If someone was going to swim, have kids, have a party and something happened where someone escaped from there,” Chief Gizzi explained, “there is nothing we can do about it.”
With increased use of the lake over the summer, Chief Gizzi said every day without the ability to respond is a day they cannot afford to lose.
“We could probably get a grant from the [Texas A&M] Forest Service, but it could take a year or two,” Chief Gizzi said. “This year or two could be when we need a boat and we could have saved a life.”
Donations can be made by calling the department at (325) 219-2148. Chief Gizzi told KTAB/KRBC that the VFD accepts boat donations or monetary donations towards the purchase of a boat.
“If someone didn’t have a life jacket and they drowned, and we saved them from drowning. It’s a life saved,” added Chief Gizzi. “And if it only happens once in 10 years, we’ve done our job.”