BANGS - It all began with a whistle blow in 1968. That is the year Melvin Walker became a member of the Bangs Volunteer Fire Department.

“I had a buddy over at the house one night when a loud whistle went off. I had heard it before and didn’t know what it was - but at that same time my buddy said ‘gotta go to the fire department meeting.’”

Walker, who had never given any thought to joining the department, attended the meeting with his friend that night and became a member of the VFD shortly after.

Forty years later, Walker is the current chief and says he has remained with the department for one reason.

“I love the people that I get to work with and be around here. Plus, it gives me a chance to help the public and that is something I love being able to do.”

Walking through the firehouse, Walker said things have drastically changed over the last four decades, including the size of the station.

“Right here in this part of the building used to be the whole station,” Walker said, pointing to the additions on both sides. “This used to be a two-story building and when you were upstairs, well, if you jumped, it felt like the whole place was going to come down.”

Safety standards have also improved, Walker said.

“It used to be ‘jump on a truck and go fight a fire,’” he said. “Now, if you aren’t ready and safety is not going to be the most important thing, you don’t leave the station, which is really good. There are still firefighters that die, and making sure that everyone is safe is part of my responsibilities.”

Although no training is required to be a part of a VFD, Walker said, members “receive plenty” upon joining.

“Now, there is a lot of hands-on training, especially through (Texas) A&M and the (Texas) Forestry Service, which is good for everybody.”

A fire in Coleman County is a memory Walker said he won’t soon forget.

“It seemed like we were there forever,” he said. “The fire was jumping roads and everyone was tired. But the best memory I have of that day is how everyone came together to support all of the firefighters who were on the scene.”

Walker said he will “probably” retire from the department after another five years.

“I am 61 years old now and at my age, getting out and fighting fires is hard work.”