Horseshoe Bend answers fire department's call for financial help

HORSESHOE BEND, AR (KAIT) – Anytime there's a fire inHorseshoe Bend, the community can count on the fire department to respond.

The roles, however, reversed when a financial emergencyarose. This time, the firefighters needed the community's help to replace a keypiece of equipment – a pumper truck.

Their neighbors answered their call for help quickly andgenerously, allowing the department to once again have a full fleet ofvehicles.

"The final child's home," firefighter Jeanette Hillikersaid. "All the kids are home, and we're complete. We appreciate the communityso much for supporting us and getting us back where we were. It feels good tobe complete."

Back in 2009, a fire destroyed the Horseshoe Bend fire station andeverything inside it. Insurance payments, grants and donations helpedthe firefighters replace everything, but one pumper truck.

Last summer, the fire department put together a committeewith an ambitious fundraising goal. They asked the community to help them collectthe $90,000 that they needed to buy a new truck.

Firefighter Al Comen says not only did people step up and holddifferent events to support the cause, but they also raised money much fasterthan many anticipated.

"I guess some folks said, 'It's going to take you two tothree years,'" Comen said. "I thought no, we're going to do it in a year.And by golly, this last August we had all the money together."

"There was more support out there than we realized once itstarted happening," Jeanette said. "The ball started rolling. There were peoplesaying I want to do a fundraiser, a bass tournament, a golf tournament andstuff like that. It was just overwhelming."

In fact the community's contributions to the cause toppedmore than $67,000 – almost half the total fundraising haul.

The firefighters rounded out the rest of the funding usinggrants from two local legislators ($25,000) as well as a grant from the U.S.Department of Agriculture ($32,000).

The fire department credits the latter grant to the mediaexposure that its fundraising effort received after Region 8 News aired a storyin April 2013. A day after the story aired, a representative from the USDAapparently contacted the fire chief and promised him the sizable sum of money.

"That just brought us way over the top of what we hoped toget," Comen said, "so we were able to do even better in terms of what our goalwas and getting a much newer truck and a better equipped truck. We're back inservice."

The firefighters may have set the initial fundraising goal at$90,000, but the total haul came in somewhere around $152,000, accordingto Fire Chief Mike Hilliker.

"We spent $127,000 on this 1996 truck," Mike said. "Weoutfitted it with another $22,000 to $25,000 worth of equipment. We still havemore equipment that we'll have to purchase, as the money comes in."

"We were able to purchase a newer truck, and it fits ourcriteria where we needed more water and a bigger pump," he added. "It's ablessing to live in Horseshoe Bend."

On October 25, theHorseshoe Bend Fire Department sent six firefighters to Rogersville, Missouri, to pick up the truck. The pumper truck finally went into serviceon Monday, much to the relief and excitement of everyone.

"It's taken us four-and-a-half years," Comen said, "and we'refinally here with this last piece of the puzzle."

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