MILLEDGEVILLE — Firefighters responded to more than 1,300 calls last year, according to Baldwin County fire chief Troy Reynolds. These volunteer and full-time individuals provide first responder manpower for nearly every imaginable emergency event.
The county’s eight fire stations utilize 60 to 65 volunteers and nine on-duty staff. Five stations are manned 24 hours a day and three are run on a fully volunteer basis.
All firefighters acquire the same training level. Reynolds said the only difference is some are on duty while others come at the call of duty.
“Volunteers and staff have a good working relationship. There is a lot of talent in the fire department throughout,” Reynolds said. “Everyone contributes something. Most of our staff firefighters all started as volunteers. These guys are non-paid professionals.”
A growing call volume and budget struggles call for ingenuity and community support to meet demand.
North Baldwin’s volunteer station (No. 7) snagged an old forestry brush truck recently. No. 7 chief and Georgia Forestry Commission information technology director Trey Spivey knew the 1984 GMC model came available two years ago.
Forestry screens federal military surplus equipment.
The station had the need for a nimble brush truck. When the opportunity came, the North Baldwin station gained use through a long-term rural fire lease agreement program.
The pump and major equipment came from the forestry commission. An engine overhaul, foam system, wheel covers, mirrors, paint job and other additions were completed or donated by volunteered sweat equity.
With this equipment the county has flexibility not offered by other fire rescue trucks built for and limited to structural fire use. Reynolds said other trucks have to stay on the roads because of weight.
The smaller vehicle renders aid quicker.
“The brush truck responds countywide. There is definitely a need,” the county fire chief said. “We can’t put a structural piece of firefighting equipment off in the woods. This truck can get in the woods if there is a suppression need.”
Given new brush truck models cost $100,000, North Baldwin’s vehicle represents creativity within a trying budget climate. Reynolds said other stations are working on building a similar model.
Station No. 7 also repainted its exterior last summer with a new color scheme. Woodmen of the World donated a flagpole as well.
Spivey said most station improvements and equipment upgrades come from citizen donations and yearly fundraising. Some small portions are out of pocket.
The volunteer chief said the trained group is proud of its work and how it looks when it’s done.
“It’s something that makes it look nice. Everybody down here is proud of what they do, and they like to show it,” Spivey said.
Reynolds likes the message.
“This is just a sign of their dedication to county service,” Reynolds said.
The county could always use more volunteer firefighters. Incentives include a state pension fund and $10 reimbursement per call and training hour.
Required expectations like eight hours monthly training retain membership. Reynolds said most train above and beyond that.
Volunteers acquire state certified status as well. The community gains from increased participation.
“A reward of the commitment is the service given back to the community,” Reynolds said.
Call (478) 445-4421 if interested in volunteering.
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