Forsyth County needs more firefighters, funding

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WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- County commissioners are considering raising the fire tax in 14 fire districts. The increase will help rural volunteer fire departments that have seen a sharp decrease in volunteers in the last 10 years as society and living patterns change.

“Our community demographics have changed over the years,” said Jerry Brooks, with the Clemmons Fire Department, to county commissioners Tuesday. “We don’t get personnel volunteers … it’s a demographic that all our rural districts are going to be dealing with.”

Clemmons is asking for a fire tax increase, the first in 26 years, to help with hiring more fire fighters and dealing with the increase in cost and equipment.

While many departments are asking for a fire-tax increase ranging from 1 cent to 1.5 cents, county staff is recommending commissioners get some of the request, but not all.

“What we are doing in our department is with strictly a part time staff and supplementing it with our volunteers,” said Wesley Hutchins with Walkertown Fire Department, the only department county staff denied approving a rate increase. “I myself serve as a volunteer fire chief.”

County commissioners are considering all the requests in budget workshops this week. They could take a final vote on the decision as early as Thursday.

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