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— The Highfill Fire Department will celebrate its 30th anniversary with a special catered dinner at 6 p.m. on Saturday, with all Highfill Fire Department personnel, past and present - along with their families - invited to the event.

The Highfill Fire Protection Association was organized in October of 1979, after many meetings with then Highfill Mayor Buster Sullivan about the possibility of a fire department in the town. The town council approved the new organization with the stipulation that it would not receive funding from the town and had to be self sufficient.

With 22 volunteers and some donatedtrucks and equipment - a 300-gallon-capacity truck from the Benton County Rural Fire Protection Agency, another 300-gallon truck from the Arkansas Forestry Service and 50-feet of hose - the newlyformed fire department began serving the Highfill community - the entire area within a five-mile radius of the town.

When the department responded to its first structure fire on Mason Valley Road, it couldn’t get close enough to the fire with its 50 feet of hose so firefighters extinguished it with a bucket brigade and had the fire out before the Bentonville Fire Department arrived on the scene.

The first Highfill fire station went into service in 1980. It was built by volunteer labor and with materials purchased with money raised from community donationsand numerous fundraising events, including pie and bake sales, yard sales, chili suppers and a turkey shoot. A barbecue chicken dinner was held in July of 1980 to celebrate the building’s near completion. Prior to the completion of the fire station, the department housed its first truck at a garage building owned by the Fire Protection Association’s president, Jerry Harwell.

In 1980, the fire association reported 140 members, and annual fire dues were $25. By the time the new station was dedicated on July 19, the department had already responded to more than 25 fire calls and saved several homes.

The department obtained its first fire gear, used, from California. Another truck - with a capacity of 1,160 gallons - was received from the Benton County Rural Fire Protection Association in September of 1980.

The volunteer firefighters began training, taking courses ranging from basic fire fighting and fire equipment use to cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

Increasing its fire-fighting capabilities, the department added a 435-foot, 10-gallons-per-minute well at the fire station, using grant money received from the state and county. The Association bought its first truck - a 1961 Howe pump truck capable of pumping 750 gallons per minute - in 1985

During the 90s, the department acquired more trucks and added on to the fire station. Because the department could only afford gravel floors in the station, firefighters had to climb onto the hoods of their trucks to avoid wading through water to get in their trucks during rainy months.

The town of Highfill began supporting the department in 2001 and helped complete the current 50-by-95-foot fire station. The town assisted with other truck and equipment purchases in the following years and in 2006 made the volunteer department a municipal entity, providing compensation for calls and retirement benefits for firefighters.

The Highfill Fire Department is no longer the fledgling organization in once was. Today it boasts 30 firefighters, two fire stations (including the substation in Springtown) and seven fire trucks. The department has personnel trained in almost every aspect of fire fighting and emergency response, including firefighter I and II, hazardous materials, vehicle extrication, rapid intervention rescue, swift-water rescue and emergency medical training.

Over the department’s history, 19 of its volunteer members have gone on to become full-time firefighters at other departments with many still volunteering their services in Highfill. Many of the current firefighters grew up watching their fathers, relatives and friends spend countless hours in training to help and protect their community.

Three of the department’s original members are retiring this year and will be honored for their years of service at Saturday’s dinner event: Darlene Evans, Gary Holland Sr., and John Poorman.

“The members of the fire department want to thank the 22 original members for creating the fire department,” said Gary Holland Jr., adding that the department wishes to express its gratitude to the community for its support and to the town of Highfill for funding the department and providing training and support for the firefighters.

Original members of the Highfill Fire Department (including those who became members immediately after the department was formed) included the following: Jerry Harwell, Frankie Hart, Frank Wire, Carl Allen, Gary Holland Sr., John Poorman, Milford Smith, Renita Holland, Kenny Rutherford, Rentie Hamilton, Randy Pianalto, Linda Allen, Bob Holland, Joe Holland, Mike White, Jimmy Hamilton, Paul Hamilton, Bob Hamilton, John Orndorf, Harold Bookout, Loy Sullivan, Charles Digby, Stephen Showalter, David Daniels and Bill Jennings.

Additional firefightersover the years included Gerald Joyner, K.B. Bennett, Rocky Bennett, Scott VanHook, Travis White, Mark Hutcheson, Mark White, Brandon Bayer, Butch Wiand, Dave Smith, Todd Colvin, Arthur Stout, Eric Holland, Kently Insco, David Williamson, Mike Mc-Daniel, Kevin Johnston, Jeff Parks, Jeremy Jackson, Danny Holmes, Shannon Nations, Mike Sevak, Clara Haynes, James Jessen, Chris Holland, Rob Holland, Gary Holland Jr., Heather Holland, Gene Holland, Shawn Hobbs, Jeremiah Jech, Bill Reams, Kacey Reams, Stacie Williamson, Kevin Linn, Clinton VanHook, John Evans, Ryan Evans, Buddy Bolin, Jessica Bolin, Jerry Reid, Danny Carter, Lee Griffin, Jesse Griffin, Larry Barnes Jr., Mike Brandenburg, Delton Bush, Adam Folger, Alisha Douglas, Kevin Higgins, Jon Higgins, Frank Holzkamper, Jimmie Jeffries, Jack Sanders, Kory Tomblin, Billy Croker, Audi Tyler, Jeremy Wall, Blake Webb, Tyrel Eggbert, Don King, Gary Harcrow, Charles Lindley and Lashelle Shipp.

News, Pages 1 on 12/02/2009

Print Headline: Firefighters celebrate 30 years

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