Firefighters pull a hose to a window to extinguish flames inside a Cove area home last August. The strenuous nature of battling blazes requires many able-bodied volunteers.
Pickens volunteer fire crews are looking for a few more good men and women to join their ranks. The eight departments in the county are all in need of additional “young able-bodied people who can fight fires.”
Assistant Fire Chief Curtis Clark said the departments accept volunteers of all physical conditions to help with support-functions, but front-line firefighters are what they need.
“A lot of our volunteers have been doing it a long-time and they are getting to an age where they have a lot of experience, but they are getting older,” Clark said. He said the heat around fires quickly saps the energy of anyone battling a blaze and this makes it important to have plenty of trained people at a fire.
When asked about current volunteer numbers, Clark repeated a line that has been used for years to describe the situation, “We have a lot of volunteers, but we have very few that are active.”
The obstacle to fielding more volunteers is the problem that many younger people face now – time. “People just don’t have the time,” Clark said – particularly during the training period. A recruit class will be offered starting May 8 and running through October. It requires two to four hours each week. Applications for this class are due by April 19th. Call 706-253-8969 for application information or contact the fire department nearest your home (see list below).
Clark said this class is absolutely mandatory to be a volunteer firefighter due to liability issues which prevents any untrained person from helping at a fire scene. But this training does open doors for anyone interested in becoming a full-time, paid firefighter, said Clark.
Clark said anyone considering the training needs to be aware there is a tough physical component. You also must be at least 18 years old to fight fires. If you want to get involved but may not be up to the physical demands, the departments can always use people with different talents, Clark said. He said the support jobs are important and a great way to serve.
Regardless of the role inside the department, Clark said volunteering with a local fire department is a great way to serve the community.
Volunteers are assigned to the department closest to their homes. “This is really neighbors serving their community,” he said.
Aside from the benefits of getting involved in your community, volunteer firefighters have these opportunities:
• free training
• gear/equipment furnished
• workers compensation insurance
• fire related life insurance/pension fund
• accident/sickness benefits (fire related)
• Georgia firefighters pension fund
• drivers training for fire apparatus
• small yearly bonus check (has requirements)
For more information, see ad on page 16A.