Volunteer firefighters make up the bulk of all fire departments in Harlan County, and are the first line of assistance when fire strikes people’s homes and businesses. However, the county is currently in need of several volunteers.
According to Harlan County Emergency Management Director David McGill, at least 35 new volunteer firefighters are needed as soon as possible.
“It seems like people don’t want to volunteer as much as they used to,” McGill said. “People just don’t have time, everybody’s lives are busier nowadays.”
McGill said there could also be financial reasons for fewer volunteers.
“Being a volunteer firefighter, you take a lot of time away from your family, your job, and of course you’re paying gas money, that kind of thing,” McGill said. “I suspect the economy does have something to do with it, but we still have emergencies, we still have fires that we need help with.”
McGill explained currently there aren’t enough volunteer firefighters to go around.
“To be classified as a fire department, you have to have 12 members and a chief,” said McGill. “We’re about 35 short.”
McGill pointed out that all of the county’s fire departments can use more volunteers.
“All the fire departments in the county can use assistance,” McGill said. “We’ve got some great volunteers in our county, some with the biggest hearts and the most experience. Our fire departments are known throughout the entire state for doing good things and training hard, we just need more people to help us.”
McGill mentioned being a volunteer firefighter aids your family, neighbors and community.
According to McGill, volunteers start with an initial 20 hours of training.
“That’s to brief them on what goes on at the scene, how to be safe on scene, that kind of thing,” McGill said. “After they get the 20 initial hours of training, they also get an additional 130 hours to become a certified Kentucky firefighter. Once they do that, they will be required to complete 20 hours each year for re-certification.”
Each volunteer fire department usually meets once a week.
“It usually lasts anywhere from two to three hours,” McGill said.
McGill explained while you can volunteer with any department you wish, it is best to volunteer to with the department closest to you.
“We would like people to volunteer closer to home just because of the response time,” McGill explained. “You would be able to get to the scene quicker.”
McGill added that training and experience as a volunteer firefighter may benefit those interested in a career in the field.
Anybody interested in becoming a volunteer firefighter should contact their local volunteer fire department or call Harlan County Emergency Management at 606-573-6082.
Reach Joe P. Asher at 606-909-4132 or on Twitter @joe_hde