Volunteers Firefighters Need Your Internet Votes

The West Jackson County Volunteer Fire Department is asking for your support. An essay written by Chief Safety Officer Richard Smiley has already won $20,000 for the department from a national contest. Now more money could come if South Mississippians vote for Smiley's essay online.

"Our little community of St. Martin got hammered by Katrina," wrote Smiley.

The challenges and struggles of the West Jackson County Volunteer Fire Department are all summed up in his essay. The safety officer says he was surprised his submission made the top 10 out of more than 5,000 entries to a national contest.

"I'd forgotten all about it so it took me about five minutes to understand that I'd won," he said. "I had to keep asking her what she was talking about."

As a finalist, the department will receive a $20,000 prize. That's good news, but the department is hoping for more. There is a $100,000 grand prize and there is money available if South Mississippians log on to the Firedog web site.

"Hit the link that links you to the essay contest and vote for the West Jackson County Volunteer Fire Department," said Smiley. "For every vote we get, whether we win or lose, we get a dollar. So if 30,000 people vote we get $30,000 whether we win or not. So we need you to get out there and get the vote out."

With worn out protective gear and a destroyed training facility, firefighters say there are plenty of ways they could use the money. Their dream is to win enough to put a down payment on a new pumper truck.

Smiley said, "It's about 15-years-old and it's getting beyond certification age. You really need to keep your pumpers certified every year. This particular one we'd probably have to get an extension."

Smiley says firefighters are asking for the public's help, so firefighters can buy equipment to better serve the community.

Voting begins on April 28th and ends May 13. Firefighters say if they are able to purchase a new truck it will de dedicated in memory of their long time Chief Pete Pedersen who died in March.