When you dial 9-1-1 in Hancock County because you have a fire, who is going to come to put out your fire? Hopefully one of the seven volunteer fire departments in the county will respond.
Why do I say ‘hopefully’? All of the fire departments in Hancock County are 100% volunteer, which means that no one is at the station until the department is dispatched to a call.
Every fire department in Hancock County is in desperate need of firefighters. At any given time, there could be every member of a department around, or they could all be out of town at the same time. There have been times when a fire department has been “toned out” three or four times and no one responds.
Then the next due fire department has been “toned out” and still no one responds. During these 5-10 minutes, your property is burning. No blame can be placed on the fire departments or firefighters, as they are 100% volunteer and may have prior obligations or just not be around. The more members that you have, the better chance that someone will be around when you do have a call.
Being a firefighter is truly a young person’s profession, not to say that we don’t need any members that we can get, but you need to be in good shape to put on all of the firefighting gear and then pull a hose into a burning building. It can be both physically and mentally draining.
It is also one of the most rewarding experiences you can imagine. The sense of satisfaction that you get from helping your neighbor or a complete stranger when they are having the worst day of their life is immeasurable.
There are also many jobs on a fire ground that does not require you to go into a burning building and these support functions are just as important.
If you are not interested in becoming a firefighter, but would like to support your fire department, most of the fire departments have auxiliary members. These members are just as important as the firefighters, because none of the fire departments in Hancock County receive money for operating expenses. All costs for fuel, equipment, heat, electric, and maintenance must be made through donations and fundraisers. The County covers the departments with Workers Comp and vehicle insurance.
The main excuse heard from people when asked why they won’t join the volunteer fire department is, “I don’t have the time”. What happens when no one has the time? Being a member of a volunteer fire department does not take a lot of time. Most departments hold a business meeting once a month for about an hour or two. And some time during the month they will hold a training session.
The state of Tennessee also requires you to take an Introduction to Fire and Emergency Services course that is 16 hours long. It is offered at no cost to you. This course is required before you can respond to an emergency call or fight fires. The only requirements to attend the basic firefighter course are you must be 18 years old prior to the start of the course.
If you are interested in becoming a firefighter or auxiliary member, or just want to see what your fire department has to offer, please contact your local fire chief or Doug Brown at 423-733-8735.
Remember, if you don’t volunteer to be a firefighter, who will?