NEW ORLEANS -- A local volunteer fire department needs more men to help put out the flames.
Chip Schmalz is the newest recruit at the Fort Pike Volunteer Fire Department. When his new colleagues showed him how to operate the hose, it was a huge moment. He said he only had one thought: not messing up.
Watching Chip learn the ropes was his dad. Chuck Schmalz is the Fort Pike Department Chief, and his son becomes the family's fourth generation in this department.
"It's hard to believe,” Chief Schmalz said. “I wish my dad and my grandfather were here to see him do it."
It’s family tradition to be a part of the volunteer fire department.
"All my grandfathers have been sworn in here, and it's a legacy,” Chip said. “I just want to carry it on."
Currently, there are 21-certified firefighters volunteering for the Fort Pike Department, ready for brush fires, structure fires, and to be first responders helping the injured after vehicle accidents.
"Sure it is tough, sure it's dangerous, but you know the reward of helping people, you know, getting people out of danger and stuff like that,” said firefighter John Rodi. “That's the important stuff."
The Fort Pike Volunteer Fire Department needs more volunteers, people who are ready to come out here, get trained, and protect the island.
"Just to be 18-years-old,” said Chief Schmalz, describing firefighter qualifications. “You can live in Slidell, New Orleans, Chalmette, Metairie."
They have seven new recruits signed up, and want ten to fifteen more. Membership is $26 a year, and includes training.
"The training is provided by the New Orleans Fire Department, and then occasionally we do training with the St. Tammany Fire District Number One,” said firefighter Pranghar Draper. “It's comprehensive, it's intense, it's physical, but when you get finished, you're qualified to be a firefighter."
"I just love helping people,” said Chip Schmalz, planning a future where he’ll do just that. “Anything I can do to help anyone, I can."
To find out more about becoming a volunteer firefighter at the Fort Pike VFD, call them at 504-662-0293, or visit their Facebook page at Fort Pike Fire Protection District.
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