I am one member of a five person board. The opinions I express on this forum are mine only, and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the Escambia County Staff, Administrators, Employees, or anyone else associated with Escambia County Florida. I am interested in establishing this blog as a means of additional transparency to the public, outreach to the community, and information dissemination to all who choose to look. Feedback is welcome, but because public participation is equally encouraged, appropriate language and decorum is mandatory.
Thursday, August 11, 2016
Fire Service Protection In Escambia County: Paid or Volunteer, What are the Options?
I have visited with fire personnel from several stations in Escambia County. Volunteer, career paid, and one that is transitioning to a paid staff. My feeling on the subject, driven by conversations with firefighters I know and supplemented by research, is that we should foster a better relationship between volunteer and career firefighters in Escambia County. If we support and fund the volunteer recruiting efforts, I see no reason why we cannot maintain the volunteer houses we currently have. If we give equivalent levels of resources to the volunteers, this would be a good starting point. According to a volunteer firefighter from Beulah that I know well, 69% of America is covered by volunteer fire service protection. And, these volunteers have the same certifications as their paid counterparts. With Escambia County being a county that has both high density and low density rural areas, I believe that fire service protection here, and the way it is structured and operated, could be a model for other similar counties around the country. Respect the volunteers, help them staff the volunteer stations on the times and shifts when they are not available (because they are working day jobs), and sustain them with adequate levels of funding for facilities, equipment, and recruiting and training. Then, help the leadership of the paid and the career units foster a better working relationship. All of these things can be done, so far as I can tell, without raising tax rates or dumping more MSBU's on local property owners. We all want the fire truck to come when we need it, and if the system is working why change it. As a fiscal conservative I want the find the most cost-effective, efficient system for providing this protection. The volunteers want to volunteer, they want to give back, they just want to be supported and funded appropriately---so they can continue to do what they do effectively. Who would be against this?