1980's: National Home Fire Department on Prime Time
The ABC weekly TV show, "That's Incredible", filmed a segment about the VFW National Home Fire Department in the 1980's. "Incredible" producers found the story very interesting when they discovered the department consisted entirely of teenaged boys and girls, supervised by adult staff members.
The idea of a National Home fire department was conceived by the Cooties in 1952 and was a popular program with National Home students until the late 70's, when new state regulations prevented children from participating in actual fire runs. Some of the young people went on from their early training at the Home to be volunteer firemen, paramedics and to have careers in fire-fighting.
At the time of the show's taping, equipment in the fire barn included a pumper truck with a 750- gallon capacity manned by 14 to 17 year old boys and girls. An older 500 gallon pumper truck was manned with a crew of 11 to 13 year olds. The larger truck was obtained in 1975 through collecting Betty Crocker coupons from all over the country. The other pumper truck was a 1953 Seagraves that was purchased at the onset of the Fire Department by the Military Order of the Cootie.
The youthful firefighters were ready and able to respond when the Home's fire alarm sounded and were credited for putting out fires.
"We use our fire department not only for protection but as a tool for training, discipline, education and a possible vocation choice for the future. It is a morale booster and a status thing for the kids who are in the fire department. It's a productive activity that seems to work for us," said Ted Ocheltree, Assistant Director of the National Home and co-Executive Fire Chief.
The fire trucks are still used today for ceremonial purposes. Every December during Cootie Christmas Santa and Mrs. Clause ride the trucks to deliver presents to all the kids.