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With no Second Alarm Scholarship Benefit this year, Sable Flames look for creative ways to raise money for scholarships

The Sable Flames, Madison Fire Department's African American firefighters

Every year, the Sable Flames Inc., Madison’s African-American firefighters, raise a ton of money for scholarships for low-income students seeking higher education by hosting the Annual Second Alarm Scholarship Benefit, which has been traditionally held at the Edgewater Hotel or the Madison Concourse Hotel and Governor’s Club in downtown Madison.

It’s a night of music, dancing, socializing, silent auctions, dee-jays, awards and much more that the community always looks forward to.

But, like everything else, it has been canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“When the pandemic started, we didn’t anticipate that it would go this long so as it got closer to the date, the executive board had to meet and make the tough decision to postpone it,” Sable Flames Chairman Brandon Jones tells Madison365. “We thought the responsible thing to do was to cancel our reservation with the venue and let our membership know that although we won’t be doing the winter scholarships benefit, that we are very hopeful that we’ll be able to do a summertime event.”

Sable Flames Chairman Brandon Jones
(Photo by Marcus Miles)

The Sable Flames are currently looking at a couple indoor/outdoor venues for summer ’21.

“There are some benefits to doing a benefit in the summertime – the nice weather and you get to dress a little lighter. We can utilize outdoor space,” Jones says. “Hopefully, with the initiations of the vaccines, there will be fewer restrictions by that time.”

Beyond the Second Alarm Scholarship Benefit, the Sable Flames host events throughout the year like a BOWLieve in Education or the annual Richard Garner Memorial Ride to raise scholarship funds. 

“Fundraising has been quite a challenge for us because traditionally the Sable Flames has been a very hands-on-in-the-community organization,” Jones says. “We think our presence is what we stand on as far as raising money for our scholarships. So we’ve had to get a little bit creative this year.”

The Sable Flames currently have a T-shirt-selling campaign, “Black and Brave,” which offers two different designs and all profits going to the Jones-Robinson scholarship fund. The shirts are $20.

The Sables Flames are raising money for scholarships with “Black and Brave” t-shirts


“The campaign is about celebrating those African-American firefighters,” Jones says. “We’ve come up with two different kinds of shirts which are posted on the website. We are selling those with all proceeds going towards the scholarship, as well.”

The Jones-Robinson Scholarship was created to honor the five children that perished in the Sommerset Circle fire of 1990 in Madison, Wisconsin. The children, who were African-American, came from a low-income single-parent household. Following this tragedy, The Sable Flames, Inc. created a scholarship fund in the children’s honor.

The Jones-Robinson Scholarship application period currently open. Applications are due Friday, May 1. Please submit application and questions about the 2021 Jones-Robinson Scholarship to Trevor Wiggins at jonesrobinsonscholarship@gmail.com. 

“Recipients will be notified shortly after the application deadline. We’re really trying to get the word out about this, too,” Jones says. “It’s been different this year getting the word out with the pandemic.

Everything has been different this year during the pandemic for the Sable Flames. Firefighting is a profession that can be physically and psychologically taxing already and the firefighters are making sure they are keeping good tabs on each other.

“Everybody is holding up pretty well. We’re a strong group of people. All of our membership meetings have been virtual, via Zoom, so we’re able to see each other through that. We’re all kind of working through the pandemic,” Jones says. “Some of us have contracted COVID, others have not. We’re really pushing to get everybody vaccinated right now. That will put us a step closer to closing this book. But overall, everybody seems to be doing well … which is a blessing in itself.”

There won’t be an Annual Second Alarm Scholarship Benefit this year, but the Sables are looking forward to hosting a summer event where they can fundraise for scholarships.

“The tentative timeframe for us to hold a fundraiser will be the end of May/beginning of June which will coincide with the closing of the scholarship,” Jones says. “Potentially, we’d be able to award the scholarship money live at the benefit dance. It all depends on what the state of the world is looking like at that point.”