Beaufort County needs more fire volunteers

Published 4:31 am Wednesday, February 6, 2008

By Staff
After more than 30 years of service, the Long Acre Volunteer Fire Department is going 10-42, the emergency code for ending a tour of duty.
The Long Acre department will be merged with the Pinetown department because of a lack of manpower. It’s a sad end to a tradition that goes back to 1977, but even those involved recognize that it’s for the best.
The Long Acre department was established in 1977, but its membership fell to 10 members, 12 shy of the minimum needed to maintain a state fire rating of 9S. The Pinetown department, established just a year later, has 32 members. The combined total of 42 will be enough to staff the Pinetown station and convert the Long Acre department’s building into a substation.
The lack of manpower isn’t just a rural issue. Washington is facing it, too.
At one point, Washington had 100 volunteer firefighters on its roster. Today, it is has about 15. Part of the reason that number has dropped is because the city department has made the transition to more paid firefighters in recent years. The department has 34 paid personnel at present.
The drop in volunteer firefighters has occurred because people aren’t willing to commit to spending the time required to become a trained firefighter and meet annual minimum training requirements.
The lack of volunteers is a concern, Davis said. The average city volunteer firefighter is in his or her 40s. The average age of paid firefighters is in the 20s.
The city plans to start a junior firefighter program to attract teens between ages 15 and 18.
Volunteers are the critical link when it comes to emergency services in eastern North Carolina. They are men and women who are willing to leave their jobs and their loved ones at all hours of the day or night to protect us at home and on the road. Sadly, we don’t say thank you often enough.
Thank you.
Without volunteers, rural areas will be faced with two options. They will have to pay for professionals to do the job or they will have to go without services. The second option is not truly an option. Ask the people of Aurora, Blounts Creek, Pantego, Sidney and Old Ford. The residents there want fire protection, but in the end only a tiny handful of the residents there are willing to volunteer to make that happen.
There was a time when Beaufort County paid for a fire truck that was parked at the Washington Fire Department.
Let’s all pray that it never gets that bad again. Beaufort County needs to move forward, not backward.