HALEYVILLE - The Pebble Fire Department is struggling emotionally after the accidental death of their chief in the line of duty and financially, as funding is desperately needed to update their fleet of older trucks.
The department is looking toward healing in both areas, with plans underway for a festival Saturday, April 1, complete with a motorcycle poker run, a cruise-in vehicle show, live entertainment and concessions at the large open parking area at Hometown Title and Pawn across from Rocky Ravine Park on Highway 195 in Haleyville.
The festival is being named in honor of fallen fire chief Steve Smith, who died in a motorcycle accident in route to a fire Feb. 19.
Since the event was already in the works, being planned by Smith, the fire department felt it would be a proper tribute to name the event the Steve Smith Memorial Poker Run and Cruise-In, from which all proceeds raised will go toward much needed truck updates and equipment.
The motorcycle poker run was Smith’s idea. Smith was known for his love of motorcycles and participated in various runs and events, his fellow firefighters said.
The cost for each bike participating in the poker run will be $20, with an additional $5 for an additional rider. Vehicles for the cruise-in are invited to arrive early and participate in the poker run at $20 per vehicle and $5 for each additional person playing a hand.
The poker run will both start and finish at Hometown Title and Pawn, with registration beginning at 8 a.m. Kickstands will go up at 10 a.m., with all bikes on the run by 11 a.m., according to members of the Pebble Fire Department.
At each of the five stops along the run, including at Hometown Title and Pawn riders will receive a poker card, with the best hand at the end of the ride winning a prize, organizers said.
Multiple businesses throughout the area are donating door prizes for the event, according to John Cox, who is helping organize the event to benefit the fire department.
“I want to see the community succeed,” Cox said. “With the rising cost of everything, their equipment getting older, it’s getting tough.
“We’ve got to get some type of sustainable funding for these volunteer fire departments, something besides a small check a year,” Cox continued.
“A lot of them depend on grants. They depend on local donations and the small amount of dues they collect from the community,” he added.
“People need to realize the impact (the fire department) makes on the community on what they do and how they help,” Cox said. “That first responder may be the one who saves your life.”
The last bike will be back at Hometown at 4 p.m., at which time the cruise-in, or classic car and vehicle show, will begin, organizers said. After the ride, the festival will feature a fish fry and barbecue. Plates will be available for a donation to the fire department.
The Austin Lewis Band will also perform beginning at 4 p.m., so the public is invited to bring their portable chairs and come out for an evening of live music, organizers said.
An inflatable station will be provided at the festival site by the Winston County Emergency Management Agency as a warming or cooling center if needed, according to Pebble firefighter Randall Russell.
The need for funding is great at the Pebble Fire Department, which has three pumpers, each over 50 years old, firefighters said.
“We’re one of three or four fire departments in the county that are not funded,” Russell pointed out. “We’re strictly donations or fundraisers.”
The department is looking for a pumper since parts for older trucks are basically obsolete, Russell stated.
“One (of the trucks) was bought used in 1990, and it’s a 1973 pumper,” Russell pointed out. “The trucks are fine if you can find parts for them. You just can’t find parts. You can’t find parts to fix them.”
The latest model in the Pebble fire fleet is from 2007.
“We are down to one reliable truck,” Russell pointed out.
See complete story in the Northwest Alabamian.