Reklaw, New Summerfield VFDs maintaining smooth sailing for communities

by Cristin Parker

Editor’s note: Cherokee County is home to 11 fire and volunteer fire departments. This is the fourth in an ongoing series spotlighting local fire departments through the month of October, National Fire Prevention Month.

New Summerfield and Reklaw volunteer fire departments are taking advantage of the quiet in their areas to continue to work hard to grow their connections to their communities and the rest of Cherokee County.

Both departments work extensively with one another, as well as other departments in the county with fire suppression and prevention; EMS first response; and rescue operations.

“We’re pretty basic out here,” Reklaw Volunteer Fire Department Chief Francisco Hernandez said with a laugh. “We’re fortunate that way – everyone’s glad we’re here if they need us, but I’m sure they’re glad they don’t have to see us that often.

“But we’ve always had a great working relationship with all the other departments in Cherokee County. They’re always ready to jump in and help us, and we’re always happy to do the same, whenever we’re needed.”

New Summerfield Volunteer Fire Department Chief Scott Bragg reported much the same.

“Things are going good – we’ve got a few more members and have a few less fires,” Bragg said. “Our working relationships with all our fellow departments is good. We’re all the same – small and voluntary – so we all step in to make sure everyone’s covered, no matter the issue.”

NSVFD boasts nine active volunteers, including one woman, who help protect more than 100 square miles of northern Cherokee County, and approximately 3,000 citizens. The fire station is located at FM 235 and features four top of the line firefighting apparatus.

“Just last month we purchased a 2015 one-ton brush truck,” Bragg said. “It’s replacing an older truck that’s been giving us a lot of trouble, so we’re pleased we were able to upgrade there.”

NSVFD also built a second fire station, behind the first one, about five years ago, too.

RVFD covers about the same area and citizens but has to cross county lines to do it.

“One thing we have that other departments we work with usually don’t is our coverage area extends into two counties, Cherokee and Rusk,” Hernandez said. “We average about the same number of calls in both counties.”

RVFD has 10 members, employs four fire trucks and is currently looking into expanding its fire station, too, by 400 square feet.

“The trucks being used now are bigger than the ones we used to use,” Hernandez said. “So we’re looking toward the future, so when we are able to replace the older trucks, we’ll have the room we need, so the new trucks will fit.”

And a good thing too, since Hernandez said his department is also currently seeking grants from the Texas Forestry Service for the purchase of a new truck.

Both departments are always making sure they’re out and about in the communities they serve throughout the year, as well.

RVFD members have participated in the annual Fireman’s Games held during the July 4th parade in Rusk as well as collaborate with the Rusk, Maydelle and Gallatin departments every year to bring presentations to students within the Rusk school district.

NSVFD recently visited New Summerfield’s schools for National Fire Prevention and Safety Week, held Oct. 7-13.

“We’re going to be helping the school out during their fall festival, too,” Bragg said. “We’ll be out there with the trucks to meet and greet with our community members. And we’ve got plans in the works to be a part of several Christmas parades, too. We always have a good time doing things like that.”

Anyone interested in volunteering or learning more about New Summerfield’s fire department is invited to attend the department meetings, 6:30 p.m. every Wednesday night. The station is located at FM 235 in New Summerfield.

“We’re always recruiting and have always had a hard time getting people interested in volunteering in the past, but lately we’ve had more people express an interest in the department.

“Most everyone who volunteers right now works full time, so we’d love to get some retired folks involved, so we could have someone here during the day. That’d go a long way in helping us stay on top of things as they arise.”

Citizens can also visit and like the department’s Facebook page, to make sure they get updates on when and where the fire department will be for community events.

NSVFD’s Facebook page is also a good way to keep up with reminders about local burn bans and other information.

“The city of New Summerfield has no ordinance regarding outdoor burning,” the department’s website states. “Always be cautious about doing any burning and always be alert to weather conditions because if you’re conducting any outdoor burn, you are libel for any damages that may be caused.”

To donate to the New Summerfield Volunteer Fire Department, mail checks, made out to the department, to PO Box 429, New Summerfield, TX 75780.

Anyone in the Reklaw area interested in volunteering with the fire department can email Chief Hernandez at Donations, made payable to the Reklaw Volunteer Fire Department, may be mailed to the department, PO Box 8, Reklaw, TX 75784.

According to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA)’s website, Americans observe Fire Prevention Month each year during October, in order to remember the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.

“The Great Chicago Fire of 1871 killed more than 250 people and left more than 100,000 homeless,” the NFPA’s website, states. “The fire, which allegedly started in a barn, also burned more than 2,000 acres and destroyed about 17,400 structures. The three-day fire, which started Oct. 8, did most of its damage on Oct. 9, 1871, which is why Fire Prevention Week is always held around that date. The first National Fire Prevention Day was declared by President Woodrow Wilson in 1922, and the week-long observance is the longest running public safety and health campaign on record.

“In 2000, the NFPA extended Fire Prevention Week to include the entire month of October, and entities such as public libraries, schools and utility companies joined in to spread the word not only about fire safety and prevention, but overall personal safety.”