Firefighting couple enjoys working together

Published 12:54 am Monday, June 14, 2010

NATCHEZ — Billy Ray and April Lowery know how to keep the fire burning in their marriage.

Their secret to a successful 10-year relationship means a romantic dinner may be abandoned mid-entrée, the children may be locked in the truck and a trailer may collapse around them.

Oh, and the couple sometimes has to rank the safety and well being of others above their love for each other.

This is the second in a four-part series about area volunteer firefighters and their contributions to surrounding communities.

Life as volunteer firefighters may not sound Dr. Phil-approved, but it works for Billy Ray and April.

“We do everything together,” April said. “This is just another aspect, and we get to help people.”

Billy Ray, 31, joined the Foster Mound Volunteer Fire Department first, approximately two years ago, when the chief was looking for volunteers. He works full-time at Roger Smith Heating & Cooling, but responds to fire calls whenever needed.

April, 29, ended up going on so many of the calls with Billy Ray, that the chief asked her if she’d run the truck’s operations.

“You have to keep the water pressure at a certain level, or it will blow the hoses,” April said. “He drives the truck and works the fire, and I do work the fire sometimes.”

They each have their role at the scene of a fire, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t thinking and looking out for each other.

“We know what the other is thinking because we have been together for so long,” April said. “I can tell what he needs, and he is exactly the same way with me.”

And in such a dangerous situation, having a loving partner nearby just helps, they said. Running into burning structures doesn’t always end the way you’d like, Billy Ray said, recalling one particular experience that ended with an air conditioning unit on top of him.

“The paint cans started exploding in a trailer, and I was thinking it was time to back up,” he said. “That was when the air conditioner rolled out. The whole wall collapsed.”

Billy Ray escaped relatively unscathed, but the couple knows the volunteer work must be handled carefully, especially with children at home who need them.

Their children, ranging in age from 7 to 12, are one of the factors that motivate the couple to risk their lives for others though. The couple hopes to set an example that it is important to care about and help others.

“They learn when they see us out there helping other families,” April said.

Family event planning does take a hit though, and juggling the children’s activities — school, sports, beauty pageants — isn’t easy.

“You have to take it day by day, and you learn to not plan anything,” April said. “For instance, if we got called out this afternoon the kids would come with us and stay in the truck with the air running.”

His experience with the volunteer fire department has Billy Ray considering a career with the Natchez Fire Department.

“People at the department have asked if he would join,” April said. “Not many (people) are small enough, who can get in a small hole to extract people from cars.”

Billy Ray’s only worry is being away from his family for so long.

“Family is more important than anything,” he said.

Though he is considering taking courses online. Even if he does not make a career of firefighting, he and April plan to volunteer for as long as they can.

“I’ll do this as long as they’ll let me, or I’m physically able,” Billy Ray said.