Volunteer firefighter shortage not only affects safety, it may also impact your wallet

Updated: Oct. 18, 2019 at 8:19 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - A lot of people believe there’s a specific way a volunteer firefighter should look. But fire officials say a volunteer firefighter could be anybody. Even you.

Given that there are firefighters in the state from age 15 or 16 to 80 or 90, it would seem like it wouldn’t be hard to fill the rosters. But the world has changed and is more geared toward the children’s activities than it used to be, Rankin EOC Director Mike Word says.

“Mom and Dad, they go to work, they come home, they throw the kids in the truck and go to the ballfield and they’re not back home until 9 or 10 at night and they do not have time to volunteer to help their communities out,” Word said.

Mississippi State Fire Academy Director Terry Wages said it's also affected the other way: loss of a sense of community is also affecting people's willingness to put themselves in harm's way for their neighbors.

“For example, going and buying groceries or going shopping, many people are doing that out of their house. So there’s not as many interactions out in the community, which by virtue of that gives us a downturn in volunteerism,” Wages said.

But the impact that's having isn't just on the safety of structures in communities, nor of those who can work medical on wrecks and accidents or search the woods during manhunts.

There's an impact on your finances.

“They’re actually shutting down stations because they don’t have anybody and the repercussions of that is that homeowners’ insurance begins to rise, and businesses can’t come in and locate because insurance policies are way too expensive, so it’s a cascade of events and it all starts with recruitment and retention of volunteer firefighters,” Word said.

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