Tilley said the four part-time firefighters will work eight-hour days, with one person on duty from
Tilley said the move had been in the works for quite some time. His department worked for about a year to put it in motion.
The change in direction has been something with which
"It used to be people in
Tilley mentioned his department has 38 people on its roster, but if he sees 12 to 15 volunteers at a call, he considers it a good turn-out.
Also playing into the scheme are increased administrative and education requirements for departments and firefighters. Many volunteers miss calls because they are attending required continuing education sessions.
Tilley said the paid firefighters won't be sitting around all day waiting for a call to answer. They will be busy checking trucks and water points and performing maintenance, which will help volunteers shift their priorities during meetings.
"With all of that maintenance taken care of, when we have our meetings volunteers will have more opportunity to conduct training," added Tilley.
Tilley noted his board had asked for an increase of
According to figures provided by Surry County Finance Officer
Tilley said the increase is reflective of the costs associated with adding the paid staff, and the penny increase goes entirely toward funding that on-duty person.
Franklin is also set to soon hire part-time employees. However, Chief
Hiatt explained when the department built its new station on
Hiatt said his department has struggled to pay higher costs such as power bills and maintenance costs associated with the larger structure, which is also used as a
"Commissioners agreed to give us the other penny we had expected years before," added Hiatt, who has been a volunteer for the department for more than three decades.
Hiatt explained his department is adding two part-time firefighter positions to its organization, which will be filled by eight personnel. The two firefighters on duty each day will work an eight-hour shift which begins at
The two paid personnel will be a huge asset to the department and the community, said Hiatt.
"With volunteers we might get a truck out of the door in three, four, five or even six minutes," explained Hiatt. "With the paid positions, that truck will be out of the door in 30 seconds."
With four county schools in the fire district (Franklin, Meadowview, Gentry and
His department ran more than 800 calls in 2016, according to the chief.
Hiatt said there's additional benefits to the department. Like at
In the past, volunteers have had to spend at least one Sunday every month doing such work.
"I've had 31 years of Sunday workdays," said the chief.
According to Hiatt, the administrative burden which falls on fire departments has greatly increased in recent years. However, keeping up with some of those mundane matters helps the department keep its ISO rating up, which positively impacts homeowners' insurance premiums in the fire district.
Hiatt noted salaries and unemployment insurance will cost the department about
According to Hiatt, dollars will be needed for more than just salaries, however. Each new addition to the department will need equipment and uniforms. The cost of worker's compensation insurance will skyrocket once paid personnel come on board, increasing from less than
Hiatt said at 8,000 residents served, his department is serving nearly as many people as
"People can't take the time off work anymore," said Hiatt. "They don't work for themselves anymore."
Hiatt said the department is still accepting applications for the positions, which he hopes to have filled by the end of April.
He urged interested applicants to call him at (336) 710-8232. To be eligible, applicants must be 21, certified firefighters and hold emergency medical technician basic credentials. One must also have a North
The movement begins
The movement to a part-time firefighting force supported by volunteers shouldn't catch anybody in county government off guard. Commissioners have discussed a possible need to bring paid personnel on board while finalizing a county budget in recent years.
The major factor driving the movement in that direction is the unavailability of a qualified pool of volunteers.
"Our volunteers have gone down to rock-bottom numbers," said Hiatt.
Other chiefs who have presented to the board of commissioners have sung a similar tune in regards to the availability of volunteers.
In 2007, The News reported there were about 100 less volunteers throughout the county's 19 fire districts than in 1989. At that time,
Hiatt said nearly a decade ago departments throughout the county sought the same remedy they are putting into motion now, but failed to gain the support of county officials at the time. Now with a board which is understanding of the woes, most departments in the county are planning to move forward with similar plans in the coming years.
Hiatt added departments in surrounding counties use a similar system to the one being put in place in
Andy is a staff writer and may be reached at 415-4698.
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