Jasper County Calls for Volunteer Firefighters - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

09/12/06

Jasper County Calls for Volunteer Firefighters

In Jasper County, there aren't even enough firefighters on the payroll to man all of the county fire stations. County officials are asking residents to step up and help out.

For firefighters, every second counts.

"Within five minutes you can have a fire smoldering in your sofa to a fully involved room," said emergency services director Tom Watson.

But racing against the clock isn't the only obstacle firefighters face. Right now, Jasper County only has enough firefighters to staff five out of their nine stations throughout the county 12 hours a day.

And many of the stations that are manned  only have one firefighter on duty at any given time. When they have to respond to a fire, they have to call upon another engine from their department and volunteers, and that takes time.

"In 15 minutes, it could be to the ground," said Watson. "So by the time we'd get there it would be difficult to save that structure."

While Jasper County Fire Rescue has partnerships with the surrounding municipalities and counties, Watson says it still poses problems. "Realize when we pull it from surrounding counties, it leaves those areas open as well. If we had a second or third event, we would be very hard pressed to resolve that."

So why not hire more firefighters? Money.

"I think it's going to have to come to people in the community stepping up," said county councilman Leroy Blackshier. "People will have to want to help because Jasper County is a poor county and we can't afford all the things to supply our needs."

That's why Watson is trying to revitalize their volunteer force and get more people interested in becoming volunteer firefighters. The problem is, outside of Levy, they only have 16 certified firefighters throughout the county and Watson says they need 25 at each of their stations.

They haven't had much interest. Watson hopes that changes. Those interested in volunteering can call Chief George Winn at 843.726.7607. Jasper County will pay for all the equipment and training.

Reported by: Jaime Dailey, jdailey@wtoc.com

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