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The role of a volunteer firefighter

By Steve Seal

Guest Columnist 

Imagine being awakened at 3:30 a.m. to respond to a neighbor’s, friend’s, or total stranger’s home that is on fire after working all day at your job. Think about being called to a motor vehicle accident with people trapped, injured and in need of help. Often times you are awakened to travel out in severe weather to clear roadways and assist others in need, leaving your own family at home without electricity while they wonder if you will make it home safely.

Welcome to the world of a volunteer firefighter. They risk their lives daily to save a stranger, maybe your neighbor, your child or even you. After they finish and return home, hopefully they will have time to get some rest before they have to be at their full time job. That job pays their bills, feeds their families and makes ends meet.

In 2013 there were 13,224 volunteer firefighters and those firefighters accounted for 79% of the firefighters in the state. Across the United States and Mississippi, volunteer fire departments are faced with common problems such as recruitment, retention, training, financial hardships and time constraints.

Currently in Pearl River County, there are 240 firefighters that operate 12 volunteer fire departments utilizing 52 pieces of fire equipment. They operate on insurance rebate money from the state and a set tax millage from Pearl River County. This money is used to make capital purchases, purchase supplies and equipment, and pay for the daily expenses incurred during the operation of the department.

These firefighters provide valuable services to the citizens of our county. Not only through fire protection, pre-hospital emergency medical care, patient extrication at motor vehicle accidents, searches for lost persons, but also through homeowner’s insurance premium savings.

Volunteer Fire Departments are rated by the Mississippi Rating Bureau on a scale of 1 to 10. Many volunteer departments within the county are a class 8. It is estimated that homeowners receive a 35% to 45% homeowner’s insurance premium decrease due to their department being a class 8. Contact your insurance carrier and compare your premiums from a class 10 to a class 8.

Please support your volunteer fire departments. Visit your volunteer fire department, talk to the firefighters, and if you are interested ask them what you need to do to become a volunteer firefighter. Remember the services they provide, lives they touch, and money they save through unpaid hours and homeowner’s insurance premium savings. Imagine your community without your volunteer fire department. Imagine you without your volunteer firefighter when you are in need.

April is Wildfire Awareness Month and below are some tips and facts that you may find helpful.

— Historically the coastal counties, including Pearl River County, account for a majority of uncontrolled wildfires in the state.

— You can be held liable for any damages or cost incurred as a result of a fire that damages someone else’s property.

— Contact the Mississippi Department of Forestry and the Pearl River County Sheriff’s Office prior to burning.

— Do not set anything on fire and leave it unattended.

— When in doubt DO NOT BURN.

Steve is the fire chief the Pine Grove Volunteer Fire Department