Ripley Fire Department's annual fundraiser starts today: here's what the money could go toward

Katelyn Waltemyer
Jackson Newspapers
Fire Chief Rick Gobble said the raft behind him is about 20 years old.

The walls of the Ripley Volunteer Fire Department are covered in equipment: one has dozens of ropes and hoses neatly rolled up, another has about 30 sets of fire gear placed identically in individual cubbies.

Just behind the department's truck and two engines, lies the department's rafts. There's always something that needs to be replaced and now it's the water safety equipment's turn. 

Every year the Ripley Volunteer Fire Department receives a percentage of proceeds from the July 4 carnival. This year, Fire Chief Rick Gobble said, the funds will help with new swift water rescue equipment. 

Money has always been tight, Gobble said, and there's always something that needs to be replaced or updated at the station. Luckily, he said, his department received a grant from the Community Foundation of Jackson County recently and that money went toward five sets of fire gear.

The suits are expected to arrive any day and Gobble said they'll go to the volunteers who respond to the most calls. Now, Gobble's new priority is water rescue. 

All of the station's equipment has to meet the National Fire Protection Association's standards. Even though the materials are certified and meet these standards, some items  like the rafts  are about 20 years old. 

Swift water equipment includes things from ropes and water shoes to rafts and dry suits. The department has discussed updating the swift water equipment for the past couple of years, and Gobble said the department will spend at least $10,000 to get updated materials. 

"It cost so much to run the department," Gobble said. "All the departments in the county are strapped [for] money."

Gobble said even though the department's wallet is thin, Ripley's City Council is always supportive. Ripley Mayor Carolyn Rader said the fire department is "outstanding."

"We're very appreciative of everything the Ripley Volunteer Fire Department does," Rader said. "We enjoy having [them] as our partner." 

Ripley City and the fire department work together on a regular basis. This week, with the Fourth of July Celebration, Rader and Gobble have already come to an agreement: if it's raining during Thursday's bike parade, it will be held in the station's bay area. 

Gobble has been with the department for about 40 years and said the carnival has raised anywhere from $10,000 to $16,000 in the past. 

This year, 30% of the proceeds will go toward the fire department. Co-owner of Gambill Amusements, the company that runs the carnival, Nicole Turner said she enjoys working with fire departments across West Virginia. 

"We love giving back to the community," Turner said. "Anything we can do to give back to the community that we are here making our living at is wonderful."

Gambill Amusements is offering unlimited ride bands. Carnival goers can purchase their bands online or at the gate in the Ripley City Municipal Building parking lot. 

— Katelyn Waltemyer (she/her) is the General Assignment and Enterprise Reporter for Jackson Newspapers in Jackson County, West Virginia. Have a news tip on local government or education? Or a good feature? You can reach Katelyn at kwaltemyer@jacksonnewspapers.com. Follow her on Twitter @Kate_Waltemyer.