Celebrate Oak Bowery Volunteer Fire & Rescue revitalization with ribbon cutting and potluck

Published 8:00 am Wednesday, June 14, 2023

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The Oak Bowery Volunteer Fire and Rescue will be having a ribbon-cutting ceremony during its reopening on June 25. 

The ceremony will begin at 2 p.m. and will be followed by a community potluck. The potluck is open to the public. Board member Louise Cardoza encouraged the community to come out and bring a dish to share. 

“It brings us together as a community when you might not know how to meet other people. This helps to bring us together,” Cardoza said. “It’s nice to know who your neighbors are, and it’s hard to know because we’re so far away from everybody.”

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Cardoza runs the Shoofly Farms bed and breakfast up the road from the fire department. The potluck will take place at Shoofly Farms after the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Currently, the fire department has about 10 volunteer firefighters. Oak Bowery Fire provides emergency services for about 400 homes. Cardoza hopes to encourage more volunteers to join the first responders as well as community service.

“We’re just trying to keep just be able to save people and make it safe for people to live here, and we want to have a support system in place,” Cardoza, who serves on the community outreach committee, said.

The OBVFD was well-staffed in the 80’s with about 20 volunteers. Since then, many of them moved or retired. Robert Wallace, the fire chief, and Jeremy Robertson, an award-winning firefighter, joined the department. 

Griffith, Cardoza and many other volunteer members began hosting potlucks to help build community support. The Oak Bowery Fire Board has been working on the revitalization of the volunteer fire department since 2020.

The fire department board is Chief Jeremy Robinson, President Garrett Heatton, Vice President Gavin Nawrocki, Treasurer Toby Hughes, Secretary Robert Griffith and Board members Jeff Ott, John Ames, Kody Yates and Cardoza. 

Honorary members of the department include Gene Quick, Freddie Hann, Graves Lovell, JC Ledbetter, Ken Busby and Wallace Berry. 

According to Cardoza, the fire department is looking to grow with first responders for emergency calls, donations and grants. 

“If something happens, we’re rural, and we don’t get paid,” Cardoza said. “All the other people do in big towns, like Opelika or Auburn. They all have paychecks, and none of our boys have that. They volunteer their time, and they put their lives in danger to help our community. We’re looking for more people that can pitch in.”

Recently, the fire department received a $10,000 grant from Coosa Valley RC&D, which helped purchase a new water tank. The tank holds about 29,000 gallons of water. The fire department also has new stations at Tiger Corner off US 431 and US 147.