Volunteer Fire Departments in desperate need of help

Published 7:00 am Thursday, September 27, 2018

Pearl River County’s 12 Volunteer Fire Departments are in desperate need of help maintaining their paperwork and records, PRC Fire and Emergency Management Director Danny Manley said.

Between the 12 departments, nearly $1 million in federal and state funding is received to maintain those operations. To keep that funding coming on a year-to-year basis, extensive paperwork needs to be filled out and submitted as per federal compliance regulations. Manley said this paperwork includes compliance records, maintenance reports, training reports and equipment inventory reports, among others.

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As the regulations continue piling up, more strain is put on the volunteers, Manley said. In order to free up some of that responsibility, Manley said he has been working with several departments to set up a way to consolidate some of that work.

At Monday’s Board of Supervisors meeting, he proposed hiring a full-time employee to complete the required paperwork. This person would work directly under Manley so he could keep track of their progress. Manley said some of the departments have tried to hire people in the past to do similar work, but it has typically ended up being too expensive, or the person was unreliable. 

Some of the departments have done well keeping up with their paperwork, but others have gone months without submitting the required documents. Manley said that failure to keep up with the paperwork could jeopardize each volunteer fire department’s funding. Many local volunteer chiefs have expressed to Manley that the work is just too much and is taking away from the time they could spend doing the work they are passionate about.

Manley said that the cost of the employee would help ensure the nearly $1 million in federal funding is not lost. This would save the county money, since it would cut down on consolidation fees and hiring outside help. Manley said he would start with two stations – North East and Pine Grove – to see how everything goes. If it goes well, other volunteer stations will be invited to be a part of the program.

This work would be available on a volunteer basis. In other words, if a volunteer chief would prefer to continue to do the department’s paperwork, they may do so. Manley stressed that the county would not be forcing the departments to be a part of anything they don’t want to.

“We can start this at any time and we can stop this at any time,” Manley said. “I’ve been trying to find ways to make things better. I want to take some of this responsibility from their shoulders.”

The Board of Supervisors passed a motion allowing Manley to hire someone to do the job. Manley said he is currently in the process of looking for the perfect person to fill the role.