Council proposing to pay part-time firefighters
The Jones County Fire Council is proposing that some of the county’s firefighters get paid.
“We’ve got a severe weakness in the fire service during the daytime,” Jones County Fire Coordinator Dan McKenna said.
He pointed to a recent example, when a mid-afternoon fire broke out at a residence on George Boutwell Road in the Glade Community. Only five volunteers were able to respond. A minimum of 12 is needed to safely battle a blaze, McKenna said.
“By the grace of God, and the fact that these guys are really good, they were able to save it,” McKenna said. “We had a medical call elsewhere at the same time, but no one was able to go.”
With most volunteers working at their full-time jobs during the day, there are times that no one is available to respond to fires or wrecks, and that could be disastrous, he said.
That’s why the fire council is recommending putting two part-time firefighters in each of the county’s six districts between 6 a.m and 6 p.m. on weekdays.
“They can keep the equipment clean and ready to go,” and other tasks like that when they’re not on call, McKenna said.
There are a total of 340 volunteers for 18 volunteer fire departments and 20 stations in the six-district fire service. That would mean a total of 12 people being added to the payroll to staff each district for 12 hours each weekday.
The pay rate will be “all up to the negotiating” with the board of supervisors, McKenna said.
“Things have been really busy in the county lately,” he said. “Recruitment and retention is the hardest thing in the (volunteer) fire service right now.”
Supervisor Barry Saul said he liked the efficiency and potential life-saving ability that having each district staffed with personnel during the day would provide.
“Most of the time, someone has to come all the way from work to cut someone out of a (wrecked) car,” he said.
The Board of Supervisors is expected to hear the proposal at their next meeting, which is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Monday at the Jones County courthouse in Laurel.