Fire rating improves; volunteers still needed in Forrest County

Fire rating improves; volunteers still needed in Forrest County
Volunteer firefighters

FORREST COUNTY, MS (WDAM) - One county in Pine Belt has improved its fire rating, but is still looking for firefighters to serve as volunteers.

Some of those volunteers also have the chance at a paid part-time position in the near future.

Forrest County has roughly 230 volunteer firefighters on the roster, to some that may seem like a lot, but county officials said they still need more.

"Weekends are fine, after the hours of 5 p.m. on the weekdays are fine but where we are lacking is during the day while these volunteers are working their full time jobs," Forrest County Fire Coordinator Chip Brown said.

Even with that many scattered across eight departments in the county, the fire rating has dropped, which is a good thing for homeowners and their insurance rates.

"Our highest rating in the county was a nine, now all of our departments are at least a seven or below, the lower the rating the better," Brown said.

According to Brown, things in the counties future are looking positive for improvement, and homeowners should be seeing a break in those insurance rates soon.

"We are always looking for volunteers in the county, volunteers are just getting hard to come by these days," Brown said. "There's always ways to help within the volunteer fire department, so just because you may not want to fight fire there is always a need for people in a volunteer fire department."

One way the county is headed is to hire a few volunteers to take on part-time roles.

"We are moving forward in staffing some of our volunteer fire departments," said Brown. "We hope to have at least four day time firemen throughout the county, we will have two in the north end and two in the south end each day 7:30 to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday."

The county has earmarked roughly $140,000 to pay the firefighters who are hired on to the county, and that pay will also be based on experience.

"By no means are we trying to phase out the volunteers, we are just trying to compensate for the lack of volunteers during the daylight hours," Brown said.

The winter months are approaching and Brown said there is a strong demand for volunteers around that time.

"People with space heaters, fire places, and things like that need to be aware, it's around the cold times of the year that accidents happen and before you know you have a fire that is out of control or something you didn't even see coming," Brown said.

If you are interested in volunteering, or in applying for one of the paid positions you can pick up an application at the Forrest County Chancery Clerk's office.