HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – The Moores Mill Volunteer Fire Department is increasing its training standards to better prepare volunteer firefighters to meet higher call demand.
Volunteer fire departments generally have less training requirements to meet compared to a career (paid) fire department. The training time difference between volunteer firefighters and paid firefighters is around 200 hours.
Some volunteer fire departments don’t have much physical fitness requirements either.
Moores Mill Volunteer Fire & Rescue decided to raise their requirements despite difficulties in recruiting new firefighters. Partially because they want their firefighters to be prepared to handle a high volume of calls with minimal resources.
Prospective Moores Mill firefighters will spend more time in the classroom and will be subjected fitness testing.
“We don’t want to put anyone on a fire scene that’s not in peak physical shape,” said Zachary Trulson, the President of Moores Mill Volunteer Fire & Rescue.
To put things in prospective, in Huntsville, if an apartment unit is on fire, several engines will respond and you could see as much as 20 firefighters on scene. They will rotate and fulfill several roles. In the county, you might see 5 volunteer firefighters respond. According to Trulson, if one of them isn’t at the top of their game or needs a break, it can seriously impact the response.
“They are not only taken away from us, which hurts us because we are down one volunteer, but they’re also taken away from their person jobs as well,” said Trulson.
Volunteers are not paid. Several administrators for volunteer departments in Madison county have told WHNT a lot of their equipment needs to be replenished or upgraded.
“When you start adding up the dollars, it’s going to be a lot more than what their paying now,” said Commissioner Phil Vandiver of Madison County District 4.
Vandiver is talking about the tax-payers. Trulson says local leaders actively try to find more money for the volunteer fire departments but that’s not easy. The ‘easiest” way would be to consider a Mil tax or a meter-based tax added to utilities.
“That’s something our community needs to think about. What are they willing to pay for? What do they want?” said Vandiver.
If no additional mil were to appear on a ballot, eventually tax-payers may see increases to their home insurance bill. Volunteer fire departments say they work hard to maintain response times, but should there become a lapse as the region grows, that could lead to higher insurance costs.
Madison County does have a 3 mil tax that passed decades ago and does help fund various volunteer fire departments. However, in the eyes of fire administrators, more money is needed to properly protect communities.
“We’d have the ability to buy more equipment, better equipment. Depending on how large the increase, we might be able to start staffing people to insure we can respond to your emergency,” said Trulson.