• 57°

Firefighters fear lack of involvement

Members of Marengo County’s several volunteer fire departments expressed concern Tuesday over the lack of young people joining community firefighting.

The Marengo County Volunteer Fire Assocation met Tuesday at the county courthouse. There are volunteer fire departments in Dixons Mills, Faunsdale, Jefferson, Linden, Myrtlewood, Old Springhill, Putnam, Sweet Water and Thomaston. There is also a Marengo County and South Marengo County Fire and Rescue Squad.

People don’t realize that there are only four to five, just a handful, in a particular department to answer a call, said Betty Bates, association treasurer. "There’s times when the call has gone out, and there’s nobody there."

There are approximately 100 active firefighters in the county. There is a need for 10 firefighters per fire call, said Linden Fire Chief James Creel. "There are so many different jobs to do," he said.

A person must be at least 18 years old to volunteer as a firefighter, said Linden Public Safety Director Jeff Laduron. Different departments have different application methods, Carlisle said. The state and various county departments try to recruit new members.

However, people still believe the volunteer firefighters are paid, many of the firefighters said Tuesday. A few of the fire chiefs also bemoaned the lack of support from the community and lack of concern for homeland security.

Funding is needed to pay for individual air packs and other expensive equipment for firefighters.

There is also a lack of adequate equipment in many departments to deal with hazardous materials. Many firefighters in the county are trained for a hazardous situation, but they do not have the equipment.

The federal money for homeland security has been limited because it is based on population, said Sylvan Mutschler, county emergency management agency director. "People don’t understand that you just don’t run out with a little suit on and throw water on a fire," Mutschler said. There is technology necessary to fight fires. Firefighters on each call must be ready for anything – not knowing what substances are contained in a burning structure.

In other action from Tuesday’s firefighters meeting, Bates brought up the issue of the county taking too long each month to send ad valorem tax revenue to the association. Bates and Carlisle had previously addressed their concerns at a Marengo County Commission meeting.

The county is holding the tax revenue more than 30 days, Bates said, and accruing interest.

Another concern expressed in Tuesday’s meeting was mutual aid between departments where firefighters from different departments can aid each other with death benefits being assured. Carlisle said an agreement should be created and all the fire chiefs sign it.