The last thing that comes to mind when watching a raging fire is whether the firefighters are thirsty. Yet if they become dehydrated, firefighters can black out as a result of wearing 50 pounds of gear near a hot fire.

Fortunately, a group of volunteers takes responsibility for ensuring this doesn’t happen.

The Box 4 Fire Buffs.

“We’re there to provide, as the fire department puts it, rehab,” says member Judy Stehle, a longtime neighborhood resident.

The Fire Buffs drive a mobile canteen to blazes, ensuring that enough water, Gatorade, hot chocolate and juice are available for firefighters.

“It’s really nice to see them there,” says Firefighter Don Scarborough, stationed at Lake Highlands Fire Station 28.

Stehle is the club’s treasurer. She was the first female in the club when she joined eight years ago after her husband, Del, began volunteering.

She and Del always have kept close tabs on their local fire department. When she was younger, Stehle says for sheer excitement, she did her fair share of chasing fire engines.

As Fire Buff members, they volunteer to help firefighters throughout the City, depending on which station needs help, Scarborough says.

Each person pays $50 a year to be a member of the Box 4 Fire Buffs, which is the only club of its kind in Dallas.

The club has been in Dallas for the past 32 years and is named after an old Downtown fire alarm box (#4) used before telephones became popular, Stehle says.

The volunteer group is part of the International Fire Buff Association Inc., which helps cities start similar groups.

Stehle says she has responded not only to fires, but other disasters such as tornadoes and two Delta Airlines plane crashes at D/FW International Airport.

“The dedication to this organization is very great,” Stehle says. “We have been known to walk out of dinner at a restaurant or stop what we’re doing so these firemen are taken care of.”

The group’s 18 members monitor fire department activities with scanners and beepers at home and in their vehicles. They’ve already responded to 53 fires this year.

“We’re on call 24 hours a day, 365 days a year,” Stehle says.

The group’s mobile canteen is a van-type truck donated by the Salvation Army. Each volunteer also carries a mobile radio.

When the Stehles aren’t responding to fires, they operate a computer software business called Del Stehle & Company.

If you are interested in joining the Fire Buffs, call 343-0749.