The Transylvania Times -

Supporting Fire/Rescue

 

July 12, 2018



Nearly every day during the summer, one can hear sirens somewhere in Transylvania County as members of our communities’ fire/rescue squads head out to extinguish a fire, extricate people from a vehicle involved in an accident or rescue a person in some other type of danger. We are fortunate to have such people who are willing to put their own lives in danger in order to save someone else.

We are also extremely fortunate because the vast majority of those involved in our fire/rescue services are volunteers. At a recent meeting of the Transylvania County Board of Commissioners, Carmon West, the Lake Toxaway fire chief and chairman of the Transylvania County Fire Chiefs Association, said that there are approximately 245 such fire/rescue volunteers in this county.

In fact, the local fire/rescue departments are private, nonprofit entities that contract with the county. A handful of those who serve are full-time paid employees and there are some who receive part-time pay. But for the overwhelming majority of these men and women, the monetary compensation, if they receive any, comes nowhere close to compensating for the hours they spend training and responding to calls.

These volunteers have saved county taxpayers millions of dollars over the years. As a result, we are receiving excellent service at bargain basement prices.

That, however, could well change over the next decade. Many of those who volunteer in our fire/rescue departments are getting older and in the next decade will be no longer able to accomplish the physical tasks they have been undertaking.

The number of people willing to volunteer for our fire/rescue departments seems to be decreasing for a number of reasons. Years ago when DuPont or Ecusta employed thousands of workers, employees sometimes had long breaks between their shift work. Many of them volunteered their services to the fire/rescue departments. They could go on emergency runs without it impacting their work. That is no longer true.

We also have an aging population. Decades ago, many young people followed in their parents’ footsteps by working at the plants and volunteering for fire/rescue departments. But today many young people have had to emigrate from the county to Charlotte or other metropolitan areas to find work. There are also young people who may still live here but work in Hendersonville, Asheville or even Greenville, S.C., which precludes them from belonging to a fire/rescue service.

The days of having predominantly volunteer fire/rescue departments may soon be coming to an end. Some county commissioners are aware of these coming changes and discussing the need to hire more full-time fire/rescue personnel. They are beginning to look at different ways to fund these departments while providing high quality service throughout the county. Establishing a committee that should include fire/rescue personnel to study the future personnel and funding needs is a step in the right direction.

In the meantime, we should support these volunteers in any way possible to not only make it easier for them to do their jobs properly and safely, but also to show our appreciation for the work they do – work that frequently is done at the most inopportune times. They sacrifice a great deal for us, and for that we are most grateful.

 
 

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