The sparkling silver tank of the Metro Fire water tender holds 2,800 gallons, and when it's sent to a fire Terry Barnes will almost always be sitting in the driver's seat. For 36 years, Barnes, 72, has dedicated himself to Elverta's all-volunteer Station 116. The retired heavy equipment mechanic lives half a mile away and keeps his pager on 24/7. He'll rush to drive the water tender to every fire that his pager alerts him to. Actions speak volumes for this man of few words. Each day he comes to the station to clean or work on the engines. He's stayed steadfast in his post as neighbors and other firefighters have come and gone. Still, he feels connected to those he serves. "I take pride in living in the community and working in the department and helping as much as I can," he says. "It keeps my mind going because you never know what's going to happen next."
In 1976 Barnes was spending time at a friends house when his friend said "C-mon you're going to a fire with me." That friend had been trying to get Barnes to join the volunteer fire department for months. After he helped haul hoses and spray water on a grass fire he was told that he was now on the fire department. "I still enjoy it," he says.
One of the memories forever seared in his mind is the day his brand new helmet was burned up, melted from the heat of a structure fire he was attending to in a single family home.
Though he originally joined without training he has recieved an abundance of training over the years. Below he attends a two hour training on what's in the different medical equipment bags that he could be called upon to assist with. He attends three training sessions each month that cover a variety of topics.
Barnes is part of a core of 3 long-time volunteer firefighters in Elverta which also include Dennis Berry, who's been there 34 years and Jess Burwell who's served for 39 years. The station seems steeped with history and pride in one's community. The volunteers will also attend community events to spread awareness on what they do. They often drive a 1923 fire engine named "Old Betsy" in community parades.
"If I wasn't working for the fire department I don't know what I'd be doing," he said. This is Barnes' idea of a fulfilling retirement.
Do you know a volunteer who stands out? Please send your suggestions to Autumn Payne at email@example.com.