A Bluegrass Concert & Hotdog/BBQ Supper Saturday is not only a fundraiser for the fire department’s Station 3, but also an opportunity for community fellowship, say planners.

It’s the fourth annual event, and every year it gets bigger. This year’s guest singers will be Route 8 Ramblers and High Noon Band, who will take turns playing from 4 to 8 p.m. at the Check Elementary School. Concert admission is by love offering. A wide variety of food will be available, and the event also includes the popular silent auction and bake sale, as well as a 50/50 drawing.

Proceeds go to the fire station in Locust Grove, and in addition to raising money for gear and equipment, the firefighters have other needs, too.

Assistant Chief Ricky Thompson said the station wants to buy a heavy duty washing machine, which costs about $12,000, and a dryer, costing from $8,000 to $10,000.

“Cancer, heart attack and stroke are the three major causes of death for firefighters….The stuff firefighters are breathing fighting fire is a whole lot worse than it was years ago,” he explained. Recommendations now are that firefighters wash their gear as soon as they come back from a fire, since carcinogens can get in their gear, come through it and go into the skin. Fire gear weighs a lot, he added, and heavy duty appliances are needed.

“Our focus needs to be…(making) sure our gear is clean, and we’re taking care of it…and staying healthy, too,” Thompson said. By staying healthy, firefighters are there when the community needs them.

Firefighters at Station 3 are also working on a grant for more extrication tools for the Jaws of Life, used in wrecks and other emergencies. Thompson said one tool, a spreader (or ram), which is used to do a dash roll, costs over $11,000; a cutter, which is as expensive, is also on the list of needs. The firefighters just purchased a new Streamlight – a flashlight that turns into a spotlight - costing over $600.

Station 3, which was founded in 1972, is one of four fire stations in the Floyd County Volunteer Fire Department. The county government pays for fire trucks and their maintenance as well as the buildings. A recent grant also helped buy air packs for the stations. The firefighters must raise money for their gear, equipment and ongoing training. A firefighter’s basic turnout gear – helmet, pants, gloves and boots - is also expensive, around $3,330 to $3,400.

Along with fighting fires, the county’s firefighters are always working to raise money. At Station 3, there has been another cause that has brought the station together, and that’s the fight against cancer, involving two firefighters and the wives of two firefighters. They even held a fundraiser to help with one’s expenses.

“With most firefighters, it’s a brotherhood, like policemen,” Thompson said. At Station 3, “everyone’s been real supportive of each other and checking on families, trying to be there for them. We’ve all just got each others’ backs – whether it’s on the fire department or a family matter.”

The fight against cancer “has pulled everyone closer,” and it has become “a tight-knit community, in general,” added Joni Underwood, a firefighter’s wife who is on the fundraising committee and helping with the event Saturday. “They are like family.”

Underwood said Station 3 averages 100 calls a year. Last year they responded to 130 calls including a house fire fatality on Thanksgiving Day. An average response time for a fire is about four hours; if a fire is more involved, the time on the scene might stretch to six hours.

In addition to basic turnout gear, she noted, firefighters also need summer wildfire gear, dress uniforms, and even thermal wear. “There is a danger of frostbite in the winter.”

Underwood said additional needs are oxygen masks for pets. “There are a lot of things involved.”

With the exception of one Tuesday a month – when a countywide meeting is held, the firefighters meet every Tuesday to work on equipment and plan fundraisers.

The fire station sends out a fundraising letter every year, but at the annual fundraiser they actually bring the community together, Underwood said. “I’m amazed at the kids who come out.”

Fire trucks are on display at the event, and this year there will be a kids’ corner with activities.

Homemade food is featured, and the menu includes pulled pork, pulled chicken, hot dogs, potato salad, baked beans, macaroni and cheese and baked goods. Firefighters will be in uniform and helping to serve the food.

The silent auction is “huge,” Underwood commented. “We’ll start at 4 and close down at 7:30 (for the auction).”

This year, $5 window clings will also be sold during the fundraiser.

Anyone wanting to donate baked goods or silent auction items is asked to contact Underwood at 540-392-5496 or by email – joni@swva.net.

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