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It was fish and politics Saturday at the Walls Fire Department as county and state candidates were invited to come and speak at a fish fry and fundraiser for a training center to be built at the department.

This past weekend, Walls Fire Department gave county and state political candidates the opportunity to speak during a fundraiser at its station located on Highway 161. 

All candidates within the district and state were invited to speak to the community. However, while politics was the driving force behind the fundraiser, the aim of the event was not to fundraise for candidates but to raise funds for a new on-site fire training center. Brandon Potts, captain of the Walls Fire Department, explained that the Walls department consists exclusively of volunteers and that a new training center would help "recruit and retain" volunteers.

"We think a new training facility would keep people here and keep them excited about what we do," Potts said. "Thankfully, we don't run that many calls, which is a good thing. But the downside of that is it's hard to keep people excited about what they're doing especially when they're not getting paid for it."

Potts explained that the need to energize the department is especially crucial now.

"Right now, volunteers are at an all-time low and has continued to drop within the past 10 to 15 years," Potts said. "We are trying to build up so we can do a better job of protecting our community and the people that pass through it."

The training facility would allow firefighters to role-play real-life scenarios and would include a "burn house" structure where they can fight live fires as if they were fighting a real house fire.

Potts pointed out that a volunteer fire department is where most city and paid firefighters get their start.

"Every city here in DeSoto County has at least half a dozen or so guys that have started right here at Walls," Potts said.

In the past, the department held a fundraiser every four years during county elections. Its last fundraiser was held eight years ago, when the department raised enough funds to purchase a defibrillator and became one of the first departments in the county to have one on their fire truck.

Brent Walker is Staff Writer for the DeSoto Times-Tribune.

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