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Must read: Fire department lawyer says volunteers “want to ‘kinda’ be a firefighter”

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Watch KSAT-TV coverage of this story

KSAT-TV has been looking at a Texas fire department’s role at a June 8 water rescue operation and found an interesting response from the attorney for the Pipe Creek Volunteer Fire Department in Bandera County. During the incident Rodney Buentello, a retired U.S. Marine, saved two teenagers who were swept away at the dam in Bandera City Park. Buentello then drowned.

According to the TV station, the Pipe Creek Volunteer Fire Department was called to assist Bandera Fire and Rescue about 11 minutes after the initial 911 call. KSAT-TV talked with former Pipe Creek VFD firefighter Jeremiah Trombly. Trombly questioned orders by his chief that delayed his reponse to the incident with rescue equipment and criticized the department’s lack of training in water rescues.

When Trombly resigned from the department shortly after the drowning, Pipe Creek VFD hired a lawyer. That lawyer responded to KSAT-TV’s questions with an unusual defense:

The attorney provided The Defenders a lengthy response, claiming the Pipe Creek VFD was not required to send people or resources to the drowning scene.

“These guys are VOLUNTEERS. They do the best they can because they want to ‘kinda’ be a firefighter and also to help their communities. They don’t have all the training a City Dept (sic) does. Nor do they have any duty whatsoever to make calls,” attorney Tom Caldwell said via email.

Trombly said the drowning shows how incidents like this are taxing on volunteer fire departments, and that Pipe Creek was “dangerously unprepared” for this type of call.

Trombly, a former federal whistleblower, was among a group of police officers at Fort Sam Houston who came forward with security concerns after a shooting on post in 2013.

The complaints led to a congressional inquiry, and several members of the department’s command staff were reassigned or resigned.

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