Nine volunteer fire departments throughout Bibb were represented at the Bibb County Firefighters’ Association quarterly meeting Tuesday. This particular meeting also happened to be the once-per-year distribution of funds from state and county sourced taxes. All departments being volunteer, unless someone donates funds or holds a fundraiser, this is the only money these departments get – to operate for an entire year protecting your homes and lives.
How much is it? From the State, $1,111.49 to each department. From the county license and tag fees, approximately $19,000 to each. $20,111 per year seems like decent money, until you realize they must pay all operating expenses, maintain often times scarily old equipment, and buy new equipment using those funds.
How expensive is equipment? Turnout gear – the fire-retardant clothing and gear they wear to survive going into a fire – costs typically over $2,000 per set. Each firefighter should have his or her own set so that they fit and function for that individual. There is also equipment like “jaws of life” seen here, which can cost around $10,000. And none of the firefighters make a dime to lose many hours of sleep per week while working full time jobs, and many times multiple jobs.
So, while everyone was there to happily receive checks for their department, I would personally urge you as a resident to do what you can to additionally support your local department. Find out who your guardian angels are, and thank them for being there. Encourage the younger generations to sign up as well. The average age of a volunteer firefighter in the United States is almost 60. What happens when there are no more? That’s scarier than the jaws of life.
As part of the regular meeting, Brent VFD Chief Jerry Pow distributed information about a program that allows residents to have firefighters install free smoke alarms in their homes. If you think you may qualify, go to the website and sign up. You’ll be contacted by your local department for installation.