Lee Bauer: A Valiant Volunteer
In the summer of 1981, Lee Bauer moved to Texas from California. Regarding his first impressions as the plane prepared to land in Dallas were, “Everything was so neat and green. I could see ponds and lush green ground. I was coming from California where everything is brown in the summer.” Bauer worked for North American Aviation (later to become Rockwell International and then Boeing) and the company transferred him to their facility in Richardson to prepare a computer center.
In 1982, he and his wife Betty moved to their home on Prado Verde Drive in Lucas where they have lived ever since. That same year, Bauer called Frank Hamlin, the Lucas Volunteer Fire Chief at the time, to volunteer his mechanic services to maintain their fire engine and brush truck. Bauer said, “We were on the phone for an hour. He tried to convince me to become a volunteer firefighter.” Bauer signed on to be the mechanic, but within three weeks he became a volunteer firefighter and continued in that capacity for the next 33 years. For 28 of those years he was a Captain. Bauer continued his full time job and said that Rockwell/Boeing allowed people who provided community service to leave when a call came in. He estimated that there was typically one call a week.
Bauer offered a glimpse into firefighting in Lucas in the early 80’s, “Instead of two-way radios, we had Plectrons. Fire calls would initially come in over the phone, then through the Plectron receivers.” Once the department started using two-way radios it allowed them to know who was enroute, and as Captain, he was able to assess the responders experience level and know where to assign them upon arrival. He said that Trinity Park did not have any water; if a fire occurred there they had to take the tankard truck which was an old milk truck. The truck didn’t have any baffles so it could only travel if the tanks were full or empty due to the fact that movement of the water could throw the truck off balance and cause a wreck.
He had a Labrador named Meg who would take off across the field from his house to the fire station whenever she heard the fire call come in. When Bauer arrived at the station, Meg would be there waiting for him. During the fire, Meg would stay at the station and when the department returned she was there to welcome them back.
Bauer describes two times that he narrowly escaped death. Both incidents occurred when they were offering mutual aid to Wylie FD. One time was when an auto parts store was on fire. He had been assigned to go in the front door to attack the fire. When they were 20 – 30 feet inside he heard the ceiling crack, he told the others to get out. While outside, the owner of the store asked them to go back in to get his computer. They went back in and were feeling around in darkness along the counter for the computer when Bauer heard a real loud creaking from the ceiling. They rushed back outside and hadn’t taken 10 steps outside when the fire billowed out the front door. Bauer said, “We would have been incinerated.”
The second brush with death occurred when they responded to a fire in a group of warehouse buildings. Lucas FD was assigned one of the buildings. “We came out of a big room and were resting, opening our coats to get cooled off when Chief Hamlin saw fire. He said, ‘You and Tuck grab a line, get that fire out.’ We put our masks back on. Tuck wore glasses and stopped to adjust his glasses. He was on nozzle, I was on back. We took one step and the entire ceiling collapsed. If we had been three or four steps in, we would have caught the ceiling. This changed our approach as to how we entered a room.”
Advice Bauer gives to firefighters today is, “Be safe. We’re not invincible, we think we are because it gets routine. You can’t get routine in this stuff. One backs the other up all the time.” He said a good firefighter is one who can take commands and doesn’t feel invincible.
Bauer talked about innovations that were implemented specifically to meet the needs of Lucas. “Gary Johnson, who was a volunteer firefighter then and is now one of the chiefs, invented a fast deployment approach.” He pointed out this was necessary because of the large lot sizes in Lucas. “There would be two packs of 100-foot hose already on a sled loaded with nozzles and a valve connector. We’d pull it from the firetruck when we arrived and drag it to the entry of the fire. Because the house was so far away from water supplies, this was quicker.”
Because of his affiliation with the fire department, Bauer saw a need within the city that he volunteered to fill. New neighborhoods were being built without street signs, he volunteered to install the them. Eventually, there became so many streets that the City of Lucas began to pay him for this service.
Bauer states the biggest changes he has seen over the 37 years he has lived in Lucas are paved roads and the population explosion. When he moved to Lucas in 1981, the population was 702, now it is over 7,000. He said the best change he has seen was the new city hall being built.