Manpower and funding critical to future of volunteer fire departments

Local - 7/11/2013 5:49 PM by Karen Franklin

MABSCOTT - Funding volunteer fire departments is one issue, but manning them is critical.

“They make sure that they have adequate manpower,” Beckley Fire Department Chief Billie Trump said. “And this is for safety because fighting fire, especially in this day and age, is extraordinarily dangerous. And the more people you have on hand, the more successful you can be, and the safer you can be.”

Kevin Price, who heads the Raleigh County levy, said fighting fires can get you tired quickly.

“You wear out pretty quick, and when you wear out like that, that's when accidents happen,” he told Newswatch. “When you push yourself harder and harder, and you're liable to hurt yourself or the person next to you.”

The changing times and increased demands are making it more difficult to staff volunteer departments. People are no longer working where they live. Cities are growing, and closing the doors of these departments stretches thin resources even thinner.

“When one department closes their doors, the burden is then spread to other departments who already have their hands full and suddenly, you're going as hard as you can to cover your territory, now you've been given additional territory and responsibility to cover,” Trump said.

Kevin Price said he has a plan to create four new departments in Raleigh County where paid and volunteer firefighters would work together.

“It's going to take a while,” Price said. “It's going to take a long while. It took them forty, fifty years to get in this shape. One turn of the levy is not going to get them all well and better to where we can vote it out again.”

Others are crossing their fingers that residents will see a change in their home insurance rates.

“I don't think they realize the effects of the cost of the insurance until they get that actual quote, you know, they get the premium and that's the sticker shock,” said Shelia Bailey, who works for Songer Insurance Agency, Inc. in Beckley.

Trump hopes safer departments will be reflected in insurance rates.

“In two or three years, hopefully when the rating organization comes in, they'll look at the departments and say, ‘You guys have improved significantly, people are safer, we're dropping the insurance rates,’” Trump said.


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