It was a bold move 40 years ago when the Cypress Creek Volunteer Fire Department decided to split from the Cy-Fair Volunteer Fire Department despite having no funds, fire station or equipment.
Concerned with rapid growth in the area and a growing lack of adequate fire protection, a group of community leaders decided to form the Cypress Creek VFD.
“Some people in the area felt like they weren’t getting enough service,” said Lt. Richard Ford, who has been with the department since 2003. “So some of the guys in the Cy-Fair department decided to split.”
After months of meetings and gaining financial support from local banks, the department was formally incorporated by the state of Texas on Oct. 12, 1976. With 45 firefighters and no station, the department scraped together enough money to purchase a truck and some secondhand equipment, Chief Richard Lieder said.
“Back then, fire trucks were parked outside of [volunteers’] houses and ladies ran the call center during the day,” he said.
The Cypress Creek Volunteer Fire Department services 35 square miles of land that was previously protected by the CFVFD. The split immediately created a rivalry between the two departments, Station No. 22 Capt. Kris Hughes said.
“It was a big to-do when Cypress Creek became [its] own department,” said Hughes, who has been a volunteer since 1998. “It started a turf war.”
When a call came in, both departments would try to beat each other to the fire, said Russell Ford,
a 30-year veteran.
“It was like whoever got there first would get the fire,” he said.
Cypress Creek firefighters held pancake breakfasts, malt sales and other events to help raise money to fund the department, Ford said.
Back then, department consisted of mostly volunteers and maybe one or two professional firefighters, Hughes said. In 1984, voters approved the creation of Harris County Rural Fire Prevention District, creating a stable tax-based income for the department.
“After that we immediately saw more money,” said Lieder, who joined CCVFD in 1992.
As the population in the area grew, the tax base for the fire department grew as well. In 2001, voters approved a tax rate increase from 3 cents to 5 cents to fund an expansion of the department. Members of CCVFD say this tax increase has allowed the department to purchase top-of-the-line gear and pay for extensive training.
Now, department staff is a mix of career and volunteer firefighters. Volunteers dedicate over 2,200 hours each month to the department, including nights and weekends, Lieder said.
To become certified, volunteers train for five months using the department’s mock residential structure, four-story training tower, live burn simulator and 50-seat classroom.
“We train as hard as anyone and more than some paid departments,” Hughes said.
What started out as a rural fraternal fire department has grown into a professional urban department, Ford said.
“We have a lot of pride as a department,” he said. “These guys work so hard and they put their neck on the line every day and really deserve some recognition.”