Volunteers train to help community firefighters

By Sylvia Hall – bio | email

JACKSON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - Imagine the lives and property that could be saved if every time a house caught fire, the neighbors were prepared to fight it. This weekend in Jackson County, residents from several different volunteer fire departments learned how to do exactly that.

It's Chelsea Hudson's first time behind the wheel of a fire truck. Saturday, she maneuvers the vehicle through cones, so Sunday she'll be able to drive it to the scene of a fire.

"It was a new experience for sure," Hudson said. "I know I need more practice but I'm really glad they're doing this test."

She and her husband joined the Latimer Volunteer Fire Department several months ago. Now, they're among nearly 20 Jackson County residents taking a 40 hour course to learn support jobs like hoisting ladders, pumping water and driving the massive trucks. Firefighters on the scene said those things all make a big difference in emergency situations.

"They can run tanker shuttles, set up ladders, take off ladders off trucks, command the scene," said Just Bouler, Jackson County's Fire Training Officer. "They can have the training and experience to do it."

"To me, the support jobs are probably the most important jobs on the scene," said Jeffrey Saska of Forts Lake Volunteer Fire Department. "You only have anywhere from two to four firemen in the fire, where there will be several opportunities for support. Driving vehicles, operating tanks and more or less just directing traffic, as well."

Support volunteers aren't required to complete the same training as professional volunteers, but Bouler said their jobs save time and property.

"Some of these students may go ahead and pull a hose off a truck and fight it from the outside as a defensive fire," Bouler said. "They're not trained to do interior fire fighting. We don't want to put them in harms way. Safety is always top."

Many people cited a financial motivation for signing up. More volunteers can mean a lower fire rating and lower insurance costs. But for the Hudsons, it's an easy way to help out their community.

"We want to help out. But really anybody that wants to, if you just have a little bit of time every week, anybody can join, and I know that they could use the help," Hudson said.

Copyright 2010 WLOX. All rights reserved.