Volunteer firefighters help us stay protected

JACKSON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - By Doug Walker – bio | email

JACKSON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - At the Fontainebleau Volunteer Fire Department, trucks and equipment are neatly arranged, but ready for action at a moment's notice.  You never know when a woods fire will break out, or a home will catch on fire.

Also ready are the volunteers who put their lives in danger. One of those is Justin Burt.  He spends the morning inspecting firefighting gear.  He doesn't do it for the money, because he doesn't get paid. His reason is simple.

"I like being able to help people," Burt said. "I know a lot of people around my neighborhood and a lot of them will use the help, so it feels good to be there for them."

Being there quickly is part of the job description, according to Burt.

"Been to a few house fires and woods fires, we had one last night, actually. And, like I said, just as soon as I can get there, I try and help out."

Even though they're not paid for their lifesaving efforts, before they climb onto one of the trucks, these firefighters have to undergo rigorous training and learn how to do the job.

"Volunteer firefighters go through a very extensive training," Fire Chief Michael Belton said.  "We have programs, the county has a very good training officer and he tries to put on the most adequate training possible for all volunteers.  It is through the state fire academy just like the career guys are."

Belton said the number of volunteers may surprise you, making up 70 percent of all firefighters.

"Volunteers are a very large force in this country and it always has been.  It's like a big family."

Funding for the volunteer units comes from a fire district tax in the rural areas of Jackson County, as well as donations from private citizens and businesses.

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