By JUDY SHERARD
ELLIS -- Firefighting is a long-standing tradition in Viola Burns' family.
And while it's not unusual to have a firefighter in the family, three generations might be a bit out of the ordinary.
Burns and her daughter, Annette Ellis, are volunteers in the Ellis County Rural Fire Department.
Darin Myers, Burns' oldest grandson, is a member of the Hays Fire Department -- where Burns' husband, the late Ralph Burns, was a member.
It came as a surprise when Myers wanted to be a firefighter.
"We were real pleased with it," Burns said. "He had just never ever said anything about it."
Burns got her start as a volunteer firefighter when she and Ralph were restoring her family's native stone farmhouse in southern Ellis County.
After the couple called for help extinguishing a grass fire, one of the responding firefighters asked her to join.
With a fire truck stationed near their property, it seemed like a good idea.
"Of course, being raised on the farm, I knew how to drive a truck," she said. "I spend a lot of time out there, (so) it seemed like a good thing to do. If nothing else, I can drive a truck."
That was in 1992, and Burns was recognized by the Ellis County Commission last month for 20 years of service.
Female firefighters weren't the norm when she joined, but she wasn't the first in Ellis County either.
"There's getting to be more women," Burns said.
In fact, of the nine firefighters in her area, four are women.
The first fire she was called to was a tank battery fire caused by lightning.
While a large grass fire destroyed some outbuilding structures, none of the fires she's been called to have involved homes.
There have been some late night calls, but not many. Most of them are grass fires caused by storms.
"That's what you run into when you have a lot of pasture," she said.
She's also served as secretary-treasurer for the Firefighters Relief Association since 2001.
"If a firefighter gets hurt or dies, it gives the family a little bit of help," she said of the association.
Besides her volunteer firefighting duties, Burns keeps busy with her family of two children, five grandchildren, and three, soon to be five, great-grandchildren, as well as crafts and quilting.