EDITOR DANIEL CLIFTON
SUNRISE BEACH VILLAGE — Stephen Grove recalled the moment it happened. He was sharing the vision for the Sunrise Beach Volunteer Fire Department’s old station house with some folks gathered at Mosca’s restaurant.
It was a great vision: Transform the old station, located next to the department’s new building, into a training facility with rooms that could be filled with smoke to give firefighters a taste of what it’s like in a real blaze. The frame of the building would give the department’s members a great start on the project, one they could pretty much tackle themselves.
But one thing Grove, then the fire chief, really wanted was a burn room, a specially built structure in which controlled fires are set for training.
It would have to be built onto the training facility and meet National Fire Protection Association standards.
The issue the department faced was the cost. As a volunteer unit that relies on donations and fundraisers for most of its budget, the department wasn’t rolling in cash to pay for such a structure.
Seated among the group that day was Sy Schiffman, a Sunrise Beach Village resident and former member and chief of the volunteer fire department. He asked Grove one question.
“How much would it cost?”
Grove told him. Schiffman said he’d pay for it.
On Friday, Aug. 3, Sunrise Beach Volunteer Fire Department members and residents gathered at the department outside the burn room, which bears Schiffman’s name.
“I wasn’t expecting anything like this,” Schiffman said. “It was just something I thought the department needed. It’s something that will help them and benefit the community.”
Schiffman, a retired U.S. Coast Guardsman, served in the department for 20 years, 8½ as the chief, before putting up his helmet.
The role the department plays in Sunrise Beach Village and the surrounding area is a crucial one, he pointed out.
“The department and the members, they give people a feeling of security,” he said. “The way the members have improved the department — the equipment and the training — well, it’s wonderful.”
Chief Brooks Frederick said the burn room will give the volunteer firefighters a way to train for real blazes to which many departments, especially volunteer departments, don’t have access.
In the burn room, they can set fires and practice putting them out.
But it’s more than that, Grove said.
“We’re all volunteers here, and ninety-nine percent of volunteer firefighters are just citizens who want to help out their community,” Grove said. “Most have never been in a fire before. Most don’t know how hot a fire is, and you don’t want the first time you find out to be an actual fire. With this burn room, we can experience a fire and the heat so, when we go into a house fire, we’ll have a better idea of what it’s going to be like.”
Frederick said the burn room isn’t just for the Sunrise Beach Village department. It will be open to other departments as well.
“This is something that can help a lot more than just Sunrise Beach,” the chief said.
As the department was celebrating Schiffman’s donation and honor, they were also saying goodbye to Grove, who, after about 19 years in the department, was turning in his bunker gear. He and his wife are moving out of the area.
But Grove donned the gear one last time to knock down a training fire in the burn room during the Aug. 3 event.
“After, I’ll walk over to the (main building) and turn my gear in,” he said.
The Sunrise Beach Volunteer Fire Department is located at 200 Sunrise Drive. Call (325) 388-6880 or go to sbvfdtx.org for more information about the department.