I was delighted when asked to write a small profile of Lakewood's neighborhood fire station. In part, of course, because it's my neighborhood station. It's also the last fire station my husband, Captain Bryant Tillery, worked before he retired after almost 48 years of service to the City of Dallas. Not only do I know many of the firefighters assigned to Station 17, but Captain Chaffra Giddens began his firefighting career as a new rookie assigned to work under my husband. These guys ensure our neighborhood is in safe hands. - Carolyn Tillery
Dallas Fire Station 17, at the corner of Belmont Avenue and Skillman Street, has been a touchstone of the neighborhood for decades. Built in 1970, the 6,600 square feet station houses at least eight firefighters at all times, ready to respond at a moment’s notice.
And, a moment is precisely all they have, according to Station Captain Chaffra Giddens: “We must be en route in 90 seconds, so we don’t wait around. People call because they need help, and we’re here to serve them.”
"People call because they need help, and we’re here to serve them."
The firefighters are working to ensure their neighbors’ safety long before the bell hits. The fire crews regularly inspect local businesses to familiarize themselves with the structures and the types of operations. They also monitor commercial construction projects and the impact the development will have on neighborhoods in areas like traffic congestion, according to District 3 Battalion Chief Michael Jones, whose area includes Station 17.
Dallas Fire-Rescue Department is celebrating its 150th year. The crew at Station 17, like all firefighters in the 1,900-member department, works 24-hour shifts. Their training is always ongoing on a wide variety of public safety issues, including swift water rescue, hazardous materials, explosives, contagions, EMS issues, firefighting tactics, and rescues–from high-angle to trench to auto crashes to structures.
This afternoon, Rick Baraff brought his children Edie and Clyde by the fire station for a visit. “We live in the neighborhood,” he said. “And, we love to bring them by to see the firemen and the big fire engine.”
Captain Chaffra Giddens chats with visitors Edie and Clyde Baraff. PHOTO Carolyn Tillery
After asking the children what sound the fire trucks make, Captain Giddens was rewarded with big smiles and a “Woop, Woop!”
Station 17 will participate in block parties, show and tells, and station tours of the apparatus bays where the public, especially children, can see the fire engine and truck and the equipment used by firefighters in firefighting and rescue operations. Due to Covid 19 precautions, the public isn’t allowed inside the firehouse.
Captain Giddens said the firefighters want their neighbors to practice home safety and drive with care but know they’re there for them when accidents happen.
“We want them to take comfort in the fact that that we’re four minutes away,” he said. “There’s always at least one paramedic with the first responding firefighters, and we always can provide ALS (advanced life support). At a one-alarm fire, your usual house fire, you’re going to have three engines, two trucks, one chief, and an ambulance arriving to help you. That’s 26 people there just for you and your family.”
"We want them to take comfort in the fact that that we’re four minutes away."
Chief Jones, the fire department’s most senior and experienced member, said his firefighters are vested in the community.
“They work hard, eat and laugh together for 24 hours, every third day,” Chief Jones said. “The fire stations and neighborhoods are our home, our family.”
Station 17 firefighters from the left, Sebastain Serrano, Ian Pack, Chiffra Giddens, Davidson Diggs, Ken Mandernach. PHOTO Carolyn Tillery