City’s noisiest celebration set for Saturday

Published 4:31 pm Wednesday, October 17, 2018

By NANCY WILSTACH / Community Columnist

Grab your ear plugs and head toward Main Street by 10 a.m. Saturday for Montevallo’s annual Fire Prevention Parade, easily the city’s noisiest celebration.

In the past the parade has had as many as 70 units, many of them fire trucks from miles and miles away. Last year there were around 40 units.

“We never know until they show up,” Montevallo Fire Chief Bill Reid said.

He said that he has heard from Childersburg that it is sending its antique truck. “It’s either an ’06 or an ’09,” the chief said. “Either way it is pretty old.

“Oh, and we are going to have a pink fire truck here, too, from Pelham.”

Is the appeal of the fire department fading?

“I think there is just a decline in volunteering,” Reid said. “It is hard to get people to volunteer for anything these days.”

Even the department’s Explorer Scouts program has fallen off until there are about a half dozen regulars. Just two were on hand during the National Night Out celebration Oct. 2. Larry Estrada and Steven Stano were handing out red Frisbees and fidget spinners, as well as folding cardboard firetrucks to children who came to admire one of the department’s trucks.

Reid recalled when his sons were Explorers. They had waited eagerly to be old enough to join the program. All four of the Reid boys now are professional firefighters in Pelham and Alabaster, but their careers started right here at Montevallo’s main fire station. He estimated that between 25 and 30 former Montevallo Fire Department Explorers now are professional firefighters.

The men on whom the volunteer fire departments once relied have had to assume more responsibility for home and children now that a mother is almost as likely as a father to work outside the home.

Volunteer departments have adjusted somewhat, Reid said, noting that Montevallo counts women among its volunteers who have completed 160 hours of fire-fighting training. Heather Barrow serves as the city’s fire inspector. And girls are welcomed into the Explorer program.

The department has between 40 and 45 members, the chief said, with between 10 and 18 typically turning out for a fire call.

Filling paramedic slots has always been difficult, he said, and now the requirements have been increased: $17,000 and 18 months of four-hour classes two nights a week to be fully certified.

The situation is worse for smaller, more rural departments, Reid said. That’s why Montevallo joined with West Shelby, Pea Ridge, Dry Valley, County 17, Brierfield and Southeast Shelby Rescue to form “First Battalion,” an arrangement that assures that a fire call in any of the areas will meet the minimum requirement of four responders.

After Saturday’s parade, festivities continue in Orr Park with inflatables for the kids and food trucks for all. Fire equipment vendors will set up displays to network with firefighters.

And potential volunteers—for Explorers and the department—can sign up.