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Frank Gray

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Clothing sale proceeds go to the West, Texas, fire department.

Firefighters’ wives help out Texas town

The earthquake-sized blast that leveled parts of the little town of West, Texas, hasn’t exactly been ignored by the media, but the huge explosion has definitely taken a back seat in the news to the bombings at the Boston Marathon.

While rescuers looked for survivors and sought to uncover bodies in Texas, much of the country was riveted by the search for the Boston bombers and witch hunts stirred up on some Internet websites.

As the toll of the Texas explosion became clear, much of the nation’s attention was drawn to the photos of two Boston suspects released by the FBI.

By Friday, when the Boston suspects got into a firefight with police and a gigantic manhunt finally uncovered the second suspect, the marathon bombers were again dominating the news, and people had donated millions of dollars to help the bombing victims.

Meanwhile, the Texas explosion, an accident, was getting to be old news.

But a small group that goes by the name FireWives doesn’t want the Texas disaster to be forgotten.

FireWives.com is a relatively young support organization designed for people married to firefighters. It was small, with only about 200 members as of a few days ago. Its membership has grown to 350 in the last week or so.

“Being married to a firefighter is hard,” said Heather Williams, the wife of a New Haven volunteer firefighter, “and it varies depending on the type of firefighter.” Volunteer firefighters can be called away at any time – at dinner, in the middle of the night, on holidays – and wild-land firefighters can be gone for six months of the year, Williams said.

A small group of wives – Williams, a woman from Oakwood, Ohio, and three others around the country – decided something needed to be done for the fire department in West, Texas.

After all, the explosion had killed volunteer firefighters from the town, another firefighter from Dallas and at least four other first responders.

There wasn’t a lot the women could do, but they settled on going to a website called TeeSpring.com and selling FireWives T-shirts and hoodies and donating all the profits to the West, Texas, fire department. Within a matter of hours they had come up with a design and started promoting the effort on FireWives.com.

They’ve had what they regard as good success – if you’re thinking small. Within a day they had sold enough T-shirts to raise $1,500 for the department, and within four days they had raised more than $3,400.

By Wednesday morning, their effort had raised $4,500.

But when you consider the Texas blast killed five volunteers from one department and destroyed three fire trucks, that’s not much.

The problem is, how do the women promote their effort? People have no way of knowing what they’re doing unless they happen to stumble across the FireWives website or stumble into the TeeSpring site and for some reason stumble across their T-shirt campaign.

If they can get word out, though, it might make a difference, Williams says. If they can get the word out just to the wives of firefighters around the country, it can make a bigger difference.

“People don’t understand what it’s like to be a firefighter’s wife,” Williams said. “When you hear of something like this (the Texas disaster), you think, ‘That could be my husband.’ When my husband leaves, you want to believe he’s coming home, but you never know.”

The shirts and hoodies are on sale at www.teespring.com/FireWivesforWestTx.

T-shirts cost $16, and a minimum of $8 will go to the West fire department, Williams said. Hoodies are $28, and about $7 from each sale will go to the department. The more shirts and hoodies sold, the greater a portion of the sale price will go toward the department.

Frank Gray reflects on his and others’ experiences in columns published Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. He can be reached by phone at 461-8376, by fax at 461-8893, or by email at fgray@jg.net. You can also follow him on Twitter @FrankGrayJG.

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