Harrison Co. fire departments struggling from lack of volunteers - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Harrison Co. fire departments struggling from lack of volunteers


We had a Facebook post that ultimately deals with your safety. The post said volunteer fire departments have a major battle on their hands. Some of those departments just don't have enough volunteers to fight fires. And that could put your property and your life at risk.

Chad Dillingham works full time as a mechanic at AMR. He's also an umpire and football coach. But it's his 21 years with the Lizana Volunteer Fire Department that he said he's most proud of.

"I started as an explorer at a young age with a friend of mine on a dare that I couldn't do it and I kind of got into it. Fell in love with it and been doing it ever since," volunteer firefighter Dillingham said.

Dillingham has seen his share of disasters. But the thrill and his service to the community keeps him going.

He said that same thrill doesn't seem to drive the younger generation.

"We have to get their attention at a young age. Show them what it's about. Get them interested. Get them trained. And some of them have got the heart to do it and love it. And for the protection of the life and property of the community, but some of them just kind of like want to fight fires and some just want to do medical," Dillingham said.

Harrison County Fire Marshal Pat Sullivan said a number of factors are behind the decline of volunteers.

"The economy the way it is, we have a challenge to keep people in the area because they have to move to get jobs or to do better jobs. Their company may move them there's all kind of reasons that for one reason or another that they leave," Sullivan said.

High gas prices can also take a toll on volunteers, who have to respond to the station in their personal vehicles. With volunteer firefighters also holding full time jobs, it can be difficult to find the time to get proper training.

Having fewer volunteer firefighters can also affect how much you pay in insurance. As the fire rating in your community is upgraded, so is the cost for fire protection.

If the call goes out and nobody responds, it could be their life. It could be their mom's life. An aunt's life, a loved one's life or even their property," Dillingham said.

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