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Jefferson Fire Department hosting BBQ on Oct. 5

Jefferson Volunteer Fire Department will host its annual barbecue on Saturday, Oct. 5, at Jefferson Community Club. Barbecue by the pound will be available beginning at 9 a.m. Visitors can get to-go plates or dine in from 10:30 a.m. until 2 p.m. unless the event is a sell-out before 2 p.m. The department has enjoyed sell-out crowds for several years, so they urge guests to come before closing time.

The cost is $9 per pound or per plate. The plate includes barbecue, homemade potato salad and cake, bread, and pickles. Plates are available for take-out or dining in. Pints of their signature sauce will be available for $3. The barbecue is cooked over hickory coals at the Club’s onsite barbecue pit by members of the volunteer fire department.

Jefferson Barbecue is a longstanding gathering tradition in Marengo County, but travelers come from across county, even state lines for a taste of the unique recipe. In fact, the event has seen sell-out crowds more times than not in recent years.

“Our event has shifted over the years to become a lunch time rather than supper time gathering,” said Betsy Compton Luker, a member of JVFD and Jefferson Community Club. “When I was a kid, we worked all day to be ready for supper, and guests started telling us they’d rather come earlier in the day. We started shifting the time earlier about 10 years ago, and it seems to be well-received because we’ve sold out either right on time, or a little early almost every barbecue for a few years now. “

They pack the pork shoulders on their pit until every inch is covered, and the meat smokes for 24 hours. Members of the community spend at least a few days prior baking, cooking, and prepping.

“It’s great for any organization to have a fundraiser that sells out because that means you have support and that people enjoy what you have to offer,” Luker said. “On the other hand, it’s tough to see a family drive up when the last pound has been served and have to tell them that we’ve sold out ahead of closing time. We’re cooking as much as we possibly can on the pit, and we’re doing the best we can to serve every guest.

Our community is blessed to have the level of volunteerism that we have and also the support that we get from so many others to be able to have a successful fundraiser like this.”

The event is the department’s primary fundraiser, aiding the group in maintenance and upgrades to their equipment and facility, which is located next door to Jefferson Community Club. The fleet includes five trucks used to service the community–a service truck, brush truck, two engines, and tanker.

“Our barbecue has been a tremendous help to us over the years,” said JVFD Chief George Norris. “The funds we raise at this event help us do some of the things that we might not be able to do with only restricted funds that are allocated to us. It takes a lot of money and time to maintain a fire department, partly because of all of the equipment that’s required for us to not only pass inspection but to strive for a rating that helps ensure that our neighbors can see the positive results of fire protection when it comes time to pay their property insurance premiums.”

JVFD’s coverage area includes not only the immediate five-mile stretch adjacent to the station, but also mileage of U.S. Highway 80 west as far as Plaza Golf Carts in Demopolis, County Roads 21 and 57, Rangeline Road, and dozens of dirt roads throughout the community. The department is manned entirely by volunteers.

“Everything we do is a commitment of time from our volunteers, a true commitment,” Norris said. “Our volunteers don’t just show up when we’re paged, fight a fire, then go home. We have a dedicated group of individuals who train several hours each month, keep our facility and trucks clean, perform maintenance, keep the grass and brush clear around nearly 70 hydrants along the roadsides and keep those painted and serviced, and all of the other logistics that have to be in line for us to operate safely.”

Combining all of these efforts, Jefferson VFD volunteers commit nearly 2,000 man hours each year. That’s likely a modest estimate. But their work is necessary.

“Our department was established in 1986 after several properties in our community were lost to fire,” Norris said. “We’re not going to prevent every fire from happening, but we can help provide a sense of security and an awareness for safety when incidents occur. We’ve put an extra emphasis on outreach and fire prevention in the last couple of years, and we hope that every little thing we do to show people how they can be safe will help them if they’re ever involved with a fire or incident that could lead to a fire.”

Jefferson has a small population, but the broad area is literally a map of some of the county’s best pasture and timber land. A high percentage of JVFD’s calls are for brush fires, so controlling the fire safely before allowing it to overcome a property or reach a structure is usually the top priority.

“Fire protection, especially for volunteer fire departments, seems like it used to be a matter of putting water on a flame, but so many factors have changed it over the years,” Norris said. “Making way for every safety measure that we can changes the system. More money has to be spent on safety equipment, more hours need to be dedicated to training than ever before, and we have to keep all of these things in mind while we do the things that before may have seemed like such basic steps. We’re fortunate to have people who are committed to giving what it takes.”

To support Jefferson Volunteer Fire Department, make plans to attend their annual barbecue on Saturday, Oct. 5. For more information, contact a member of the department, follow them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/JeffersonVolunteerFireDepartment, or email JeffersonVFDept@gmail.com.