Pecos Davis and Chance Parsons are brothers-in-law and comrades-in-arms with the Malaga Volunteer Fire Department in Eddy County, New Mexico. In the desert land of their corner of the state, they're mostly fighting lit-up petroleum tank batteries—complexes of tanks used to separate water from oil. When there's a fire the VFD's volunteer firefighters—all eight of them—get a call. Here's what they're dealing with.
1. Lightning loves fiberglass.
Eddy County is on the edge of the Guadalupe Mountains, which puts it on the dividing line between wet country and dry country. The meteorological byproduct: lots of lightning. And, according to Parsons, lightning loves fiberglass—which is what holds the petroleum-laced water that's been separated from oil. Water like that burns.
2. Wind can be just as dangerous as lightning.
In the dry desert environment, wind moving over dirt and sand particles can be enough to build up a cache of static electricity. If the buildup discharges as a spark, and the spark is near tanks, it can become a fire. Luckily, oil companies have gotten better at grounding the tanks. When Parsons started as a firefighter—just a few years ago—he was fighting static fires once every two or three weeks. Today, it's only one every month or two.
3. The first fireman to get to the station gets the good truck.
Forget the brigade of firemen hopping out of a truck, each grabbing a hose or axe, and running out to fight the fire. In Malaga, the first man to the firehouse jumps in a truck and speeds to the scene. He can't wait around to see who else will show up. When the next firefighters roll in they take support trucks, based on scouting from the first responder.
4. Fire hydrants are a luxury.
There isn't exactly a hydrant on every corner in Malaga—and there's not that many corners—so the Malaga team carries water with them in tanker trucks. Even then, they have to be tactical with how they deploy them. "If we have to haul water, we're gonna have to come all the way back into Malaga," says Davis. "At times, it can be 45 miles round trip just to get water back to where the fire's at."
5. You still have to go to work in the morning.
Both Parsons and Davis work in the oil fields. "There's some calls we go on, we'll leave the house at 10 o'clock at night, come home at 4 o'clock in the morning, and go to work," says Davis. "That's all the sleep we had."
For more about from Davis and Parsons—and more on the dangers of small-town firefighting, download the latest episode of the , available now on iTunes.