‘Dedication’s what makes it’

Baileyton Volunteer Fire Department celebrates 50 years of service

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Baileyton Volunteer Fire Department Chief Zachary McGee (left) and former Chief Joe Golden pose for a photo at Saturday’s anniversary celebration. (W.C. Mann for The Cullman Tribune)

BAILEYTON, Ala. – The Baileyton Volunteer Fire Department (VFD) on Saturday celebrated 50 years of service to the rural communities of northwest Cullman County. Members, families and visitors were treated to lunch, truck and equipment displays and live music by Jesse Priest.

According to Chief Zachary McGee, the Baileyton VFD currently has 28 members, including four emergency medical technicians, three emergency medical responders, eight firefighters and several auxiliary members.

McGee, a second-generation firefighter/EMT who followed his father into the Baileyton department, said, “I think a lot of people don’t know the extent of what fire departments do- not just us, but any fire department. It’s not just fires, you know, but we run everything. Any time you call 911, unless it’s just a sheriff’s office matter, you’re going to get the fire department on the dispatch.”

McGee noted that volunteer firefighters and EMTs are just that: volunteers. They do most or all of what they do without pay, and often come out of their own pocket for department expenses. 

Of his volunteers, he said, “I would thank them all for the time they dedicate. There’s no pay, so it’s all up to whether they’re dedicated enough to show up or not. Dedication’s what makes it.”

About 80% of the department’s calls are medical calls, but it has seen plenty of other action as well, and not just around town. Baileyton crews responded to the 2011 and 2020 tornadoes, assisted at the J.B. Pennington High School fire in Blountsville and helped combat a large warehouse fire in Atalla in addition to many local calls.

Thinking back over the department’s history and recalling stories from previous chiefs, McGee pointed to technology as one of the biggest changes over the years.

“We had a big fire, and the only reason we knew about it was somebody saw it. He came back and got the truck, and had to stop down here at the store to call it in. They didn’t have radios back then, so they called the sheriff’s office, and they would call somebody and then they’d leave and their wife would call everyone else. I guess communications have improved vastly since then.”

Former Chief Joe Golden, who has been with the Baileyton department for more than 34 years, told The Tribune, “I’ve been fortunate to be a part of the growth and expansion of the fire department and the equipment, and I think Zack’s going to do a real good job in furthering the department in the years to come, too. Just very fortunate to be a part of this department.”

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