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Need for more volunteer firefighters in Forsyth Co.

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FORSYTH COUNTY, N.C. -- Volunteer fire departments hope a $1.1 million grant will help them recruit more volunteer fire fighters.

The number of volunteer fire fighters has drastically dwindled across the country in recent decades including Forsyth County where about 700 volunteer fire fighters protect the county.

“That number continues to drop," says Deputy Fire Marshall Tim Whicker. "I remember when we were looking at 1,200 to 1,300 volunteers in Forsyth County."

Whicker says the decline is a reflection of changes in society. Families are busy today and people who live in rural areas have left their farms for 9-5 jobs in the city, leaving less people to volunteer.

"With the lack of volunteers you still have to get the truck on the roads, fight the fires, go to the wrecks," Whicker said. "So [volunteer departments] have been forced to increase their budgets and either hire full-time or part-time fire fighters in order to cover the station. Volunteers in our community save a tremendous amount of tax money for the fact you are not having to pay salaries."

Fire officials also point out that in addition to saving tax dollars the more volunteers a department has the lower your homeowners insurance rate will be. The rate is based on a formula that takes into consideration the number of fire fighters on stand-by in your fire district.

The $1.1 million grant will be used to help recruit volunteers with a campaign scheduled for this fall. The campaign hopes to recruit 136 volunteers though departments will admit they need a lot more helping hands.

“If I don't go who's going? Somebody needs to go," says Deputy Chief Robbie Shrewsbury for Salem Chapel Volunteer Fire Department. His department is the smallest in Forsyth County and with fewer volunteers they've been forced to hire a part-time fire fighter Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

If you are interested in volunteering, contact your nearest volunteer fire department.



  • Jim

    I’m unclear how spending 1.1 million to recruit 130 volunteers is more cost effective than paying the hired part time guys.

  • David

    Because 136 firefighters at a minimum $30,000 per firefighter per year is $4,080,000 and that’s just one year. A dedicated volunteer could serve a lifetime for free.

  • Mike

    Because after the part-time people leave – someone still has to fill in and respond. It still is expensive to hire part-time personnel (and train them) for 24 hour operation. In order to garner the most “bang for the buck” the volunteer fire service still needs volunteer personnel to pick up and respond. Jim – you seem smart – do the math on part-time personnel (1/2 of the $4.08 million quoted by Dave = $2.04 million) and the savings you get on homeowner’s insurance (a 10 rating = NO fire protection whatsoever = $2000/yr or more vs. $1200 – $1500 with a bare minimum 9S rating for bare bones VOLUNTEER fire protection). The better the rating & more personnel = the better the savings to you on homeowner policies.
    Part 2 – If the various volunteer agencies fall apart/go bankrupt/etc. – it eventually forces county government to raise taxes to now provide fire protection (via a fully paid county fire department or privatized companies providing the same function) = more of your hard-earned money going to government and less in your pocket as it is. Volunteers provide a very cost-effective way to provide services you take for granted when you call 911 and ask for fire or emergency response.
    And before you respond back to me – I am a volunteer firefighter AND a career firefighter in the Triad.

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