Dulaney, Eastaboga fire chief, helped found department
by Madasyn Czebiniak
mczebiniak@annistonstar.com
Jan 20, 2014 | 3739 views |  0 comments | 75 75 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Austin Maxwell Dulaney Jr.
Austin Maxwell Dulaney Jr.
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Volunteer Fire chief Austin Maxwell Dulaney Jr. was the foundation of the Eastaboga Volunteer Fire Department. He built the agency from the ground-up, starting with a $1 more than 38 years ago.

Dulaney died from lung cancer on Jan. 11. And though he is gone, the agency he helped build will continue to help those who need it.

“He was a gem and anybody that knew him ... we lost a good one,” said his daughter, Stephanie Dulaney.

She said her father’s passing was considered a line-of-duty death because volunteer firefighters are considered to be always on duty. She did not know whether her father’s cancer was a result of firefighting.

On the day of the funeral, Anniston firefighters hung an American flag from the top of a tower ladder on Alabama 202 and Eastaboga firefighters set up a tribute at their station.

Oxford fire chief Gary Sparks hung an American flag for Dulaney from one of his department’s fire trucks, which he parked at the entrance to the cemetery.

“Not only were we firefighters but we were friends,” said Sparks, who has known the Dulaneys since he was 15 years old.

Sparks said he wanted to do something to honor Dulaney and show everyone what he meant to the community.

“You could always count on him. It didn’t matter what time of day or night. If you needed them, there was a truck coming from Eastaboga,” he said.

Dulaney said she was grateful for the show of support from those who attended her father’s funeral.

“It took a lot of fire departments to put his funeral together and they did a wonderful job of it,” she said.

Eastaboga currently has 24 volunteer firefighters. The department will have a special meeting and an election to decide who will be the next chief, Dulaney said.

“We’re grateful to all our firefighters. It takes a special kind of person to do this job,” she said about her comrades. “Not everyone could work a full day at a paid job and fight fires at night. My dad even left work sometimes to run a call.”

Sparks shared Dulaney’s sentiments.

“He’s one of those that never got paid. He never received a paycheck to do what they did,” he said.

Like most volunteer firefighters, Dulaney worked a regular job during the day, his daughter said. While volunteering as a firefighter, Dulaney’s day jobs included working for Lincoln Metals, John Ray Enterprises, and working as a dairy and soybean farmer.

Dulaney, who began firefighting herself in 2009, said one difficult thing about her father’s passing has been wearing two hats – that of a firefighter and of a daughter.

“I want to give him the firefighter side of it as well as giving him a good service for being his daughter,” she said. “It’s hard.”

Dulaney said even though Eastaboga’s volunteer department existed before the 1970s, it had no headquarters. The trucks sat in a lot next to a burnt down grocery store.

Dulaney said that 38 years ago, her father bought a piece of land from her grandfather for $1. The two then built a two-room structure to house the trucks. But Dulaney didn’t stop with just the building, she said. He made other fire trucks, too.

“He did most of the work on them himself with the firefighters in the department. They would get dump trucks and hose reels and weld the water tank on there,” she said.

Dulaney said the department doesn’t make its own trucks anymore, but they still have the last truck her father made from the ground-up.

“He would paint them himself. He’d paint them that canary yellow,” she said.

Sparks said one thing he’s going to miss is seeing his friend when he responds to a call. In the course of a year, the Eastaboga department answers about 125 calls, Dulaney said. Whether he was physically there or not, her father would help, too, Dulaney said.

“The ones I ran and he didn’t, once we got on scene I would call him and let him know what was going on. Now he’ll be watching over us,” she said.

Staff writer Madasyn Czebiniak: 256-235-3546. On Twitter @MCzebiniak_Star.

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