When Chalk Bluff Volunteer Fire Chief Mike Meadors spoke at a large community gathering Tuesday, he said firefighters often face danger together, but not all dangers are physical risks.

“We face danger together, but do this because we love our community,” he said. “Now, we are asking the community for help.”

About 50 Chalk Bluff residents met at Chalk Bluff Baptist Church on Tuesday evening for a community meeting about loan debt the fire department accumulated from the 2004 purchase of a new pumper truck. The department currently faces an outstanding debt of $115,000, and because the department has not been able to make loan payments, the U.S. Department of Agriculture may repossess the truck.

“We are trying to get some additional community support for keeping the pumper truck, because we fell behind on payments,” Meadors said. “We are a volunteer fire department and, like most fire departments, this is strictly volunteer with no paid employees, so we all have regular jobs, but we do this in our spare time to serve the community.”

Meadors, an information technology employee with H-E-B, said the fire department purchased the new pumper truck in 2004 with a loan from the USDA. The department planned to make annual payments of $12,000 by hosting an annual training and rescue school before the economic challenges in 2008 caused participation in the training class to dwindle.

Firefighters were unable to continue with the fire training class, causing payments on the loan to stop. Meadors said loan and interest payments continued to grow.

“Donations also went down, so we found ourselves behind, and the further we found ourselves behind, the harder it’s been to catch up,” Meadors said. “We sent out filings in 2012 and 2013 asking for donations, but we didn’t get much of a response. Now we are in a situation where if we don’t come up with the money, we will end up losing the truck.”

Chalk Bluff volunteer firefighters respond to traffic crashes, fires, emergency incidents, and medical calls for about 1,400 homes and 4,000 residents about seven miles north of Waco. Longtime Chalk Bluff resident and former World War II fighter pilot Harold Adams, 92, stopped by the meeting Tuesday to show his support.

“I don’t like to leave my wife home by herself for long, but I brought you a check to let you know I support you,” Adams said to Meadors. “The fire department means a lot. I really appreciate them, because they’ve been by when my wife has had to go to the hospital.

“They will always show up and we really appreciate them.”

Firefighters said the fire department expects to establish their nonprofit status by the end of the year and all donations will be considered tax-deductible, Meadors said.

Community members donated about $2,600 at Tuesday’s meeting and residents volunteered to help the agency with clerical and bookkeeping work for the department, Meadors said. He said if they don’t raise enough money to make the remaining payment on the loan and they lose the truck, all donations will go to purchase an older firetruck to replace it.

Firefighters established a GoFundMe account in hopes of raising the money. For more information or to make a contribution, visit: www.gofundme.com/cbvfd-help-save-our-rescue-truck.

Kristin Hoppa has been covering public safety and breaking news for the Tribune-Herald since January 2016. She worked in Northwest Missouri covering crime-related issues before her move to Central Texas. She is a University of Kansas graduate.

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