Forrest County fire officials are reaching out to the public, expressing the need for volunteer firefighters throughout the county.
“We have a huge need for volunteers, we do have volunteers at each station but the numbers are getting low,” said Forrest County Fire Coordinator Chip Brown.
Forrest County operates 8 different volunteer fire departments with 16 stations and around 230 volunteers on the roll.
“Our biggest problem that we see is daytime volunteers, while everybody is at work and we just don't have the manpower during the day to respond to the calls,” said Brown.
Other counties have arranged their budget for full time firefighters to man stations.
“If there was a way to figure out some funding to get some paid firefighters at the stations during the day, even if it was only one firefighter, we could get a truck to the scenes a lot quicker,” said Brown.
Response time during the day is longer due to firefighter's prior obligations.
“You are having to go from work, go get the fire trucks and then go to the scenes, you're up to a 20 minute response time,” said Brown.
Response time during the evening and night ranges from around 8 to 10 minutes according to Brown.
“These volunteers that you see don't have the time to take away from their family or jobs to go out and get the required training,” said Brown.
Training for volunteer firefighters required by the state fire academy has gone up from around 38 to close to 80 hours, making the time they have to use for the training more difficult to just to become a level 1 firefighter.
“The more volunteers we have in the county, the more they are responding to calls and getting the training, the lower your insurance premiums will be for homeowners in the community,” said Brown.
For those interested in volunteering…
“There are things that you can do in a volunteer fire department, there are numerous ways to help the volunteer fire departments other than being the one to run into a burning building,” said Brown.
Contact Chip Brown at 601-544-5911 if you are interested in volunteering or learning more about the opportunities offered by the departments.