The Forrest County Board of Supervisors shelled out a little extra money for some of the volunteer fire departments in the county.
Supervisors voted to give seven of the eight departments each an extra $5,000 from the supervisor’s parks and recreation funds.
Even with the extra funds, Forrest County Fire Coordinator Chip Brown said the biggest hurdle is finding volunteers.
“We need more volunteers that can respond during the day," Brown said. "We have offset that need a little bit with our paid firefighter program but there’s always a need for more."
The county currently has around 200 men and women on the roster, according to Brown.
“Our volunteer fire departments work on a very limited budget each year," Brown said. "Firefighting equipment is expensive, upkeep of fire trucks is expensive, these buildings, maintaining the buildings, it all comes to a great expense to the volunteer fire departments. The board of Supervisors put in an extra $5,000 in the fire departments budget and that will help greatly by maintaining equipment, buying new equipment for these firefighters and help upgrading some buildings.”
Forrest County Board of Supervisors President David Hogan said with some state budget cuts, the extra money can be helpful.
“There’s always a need there for turnout gear, boots, gloves, so forth, we want to support that,” Hogan said. “The state has cut our funding with the rural fire truck acquisition program, that’s $75,000 per truck, these trucks are $300,000, the county usually matches and that individual department has to finance the remainder.”
Hogan said he expects it to hurt the county’s fire rating eventually.
The shortage of volunteers is not something that just plagues Forrest County, according to Brown.
“We see this across the state, we have meetings with all the fire coordinators get together throughout the state and everybody has the same bottom,” Brown said. “Volunteers, volunteers, volunteers…we need volunteers in this state and volunteerism is a dying bread.”
Hogan said the board will address the matter again on the 18th of December and work to be sure all eight departments get the $5,000.
If you are interested in volunteering, contact Chip Brown at 601-544-5911.