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Daily Sun photo/Michael Kormos Pictured front row left to right: Bill Drozd, Julie Teel, John Teel, Dan Wilke, Annette Goolsby. Back row left ro right: Kurt Knauth, Tom Blake, Rebecca Haines, Charlie Bush, John Gantt, Sara Withrow, Michael Withrow , Linda Denning. Not picture are: Helen Arrowood, Lacey Oburn, Leanna Pitts, David Bonner.

What started five years ago as a need for a new motor for Richland Chambers Lake’s only rescue boat, has evolved into a non-profit organization with a mission to “Fuel the Firefighters.”

RE/MAX Lakeside Dreams donated a check Thursday for $38,000 to be split between 287 R/C Fire & Rescue, Kerens Volunteer Fire Department, Mustang VFD, Eureka VFD, Mildred VFD and Southern Oaks VFD.

Due to COVID-19 precautions, the real estate office hosted its fifth annual “Fuel the Firefighters” fundraiser as a series of virtual events which included Zoom parties, a silent auction and T-shirt sponsorships.

The fundraiser continues to pick up steam year after year.

“We ended up raising about $3,000 more than last year,” said Julie Teel of RE/MAX. “We were surprised, to be honest, but I think it was due to a longer fundraising period this year.”

“It’s all to benefit the Richland-Chambers Lake community,” said John Teel of RE/MAX. “We love this community and this is our way to give back. I can’t say enough about our board members who have worked tirelessly to help get this done. It’s a pleasure for us.”

Julie said in five years, almost $163,000 have gone directly into the hands of local agencies.

“From a Volunteer Fire Department perspective, we were very concerned that COVID-19 would prevent Benefit R/C and RE/MAX from being able to host a fundraising event this year,” said John Gantt, President of 287 R/C Fire and Rescue. “The VFDs serving the major housing developments around the lake have the same support requirements as a major city like Corsicana as well as the rural challenges with wildfires and longer response times for Emergency Medical Services. We rely on the community and local businesses to help us be prepared to provide the fire and EMS protection needed. This year, because of the challenges of COVID-19, we thought there couldn't be an event and had resigned ourselves to 'just getting by.' But. Benefit R/C came through with a virtual event that allowed our community to safely shoe support to our firefighters. On behalf of all the departments and firefighters, we'd like to thank the community, Benefit R/C and RE/MAX Lakeside Dreams for the outstanding effort and support.

“Grass fires, or wildland fires as we call them, can be a major threat to both land and buildings,” said Southern Oaks VFD fire chief, Van Wagnon. “Fighting them safely requires a different kind of clothing than when fighting a structure fire. We were able to secure a grant to buy coats and pants for our wildland firefighters, but we didn’t have enough money to buy boots, gloves, and helmets for them. The Fuel the Firefighters donation will allow us to complete outfitting our firefighters to safely combat wildfires. We’ll even have a little left over to buy additional pads for our AEDs. Thank you to all that helped and especially to Benefit R/C for sponsoring the event.”

“We are always looking for new technology to improve our firefighting capabilities. We recently learned about a new device that we can use for some home and mobile home fires that uses a powder to knock down the fire quickly and reduces the amount of water we have to use,” said Miran Sedlacek, Lieutenant and Training Coordinator for 287 R/C Fire and Rescue. “This technology may reduce water damage as well as putting the fire out quicker. However, the cost of purchasing this technology just wasn’t in our budget until Benefit R/C and Fuel the Firefighters came along. Thanks to the overwhelming community support, we will be able to buy this unit and add it to our firefighting arsenal.”

“When COVID-19 appeared early this year, we were asking ourselves if we’d made a mistake taking on a $10,000 a year truck payment for the new fire engine we purchased in January”, said Bruce Speak, fire chief of 287 R/C Fire and Rescue. “I told everyone, the community and local businesses have been there for us every time we’ve asked them, they’ll be there for us through COVID-19. And I was right. Thanks to their generosity and Fuel the Firefighters, we will be able to make that payment in December. Thank you for being there for us so we can be there for you!”

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