In an effort to improve public safety and lower homeowners’ fire insurance rates, the Jeff Davis County Commission last year had three new rural fire stations built.
But that improved safety and lowered fire insurance rates may not be realized if Fire Chief Charles Wasdin can’t overcome the problem he has been having signing up volunteer firefighters to serve with those new stations.
In fact, with the county’s next Insurance Service Office (ISO) review expected this fall, if the stations aren’t sufficiently served by volunteers, the county’s ISO rating could go up. ISO ratings are used to determine fire insurance rates. The higher the rating, the higher the rates.
Wasdin said last week that the county’s last ISO inspection was in 2014 and they are usually done every five years.
“If people don’t start participating by serving as volunteer firemen, insurance premiums will go up and it will take time to get them back down again,” Chief Wasdin said.
The three new stations are ….
• Towns Bluff Station, located on the Uvalda Highway at its intersection with Philadelphia Methodist Church Road and Towns Bluff Road. It will serve residents in those areas of the county.
• Blackburn Station, located on Philadelphia Baptist Church Road off Bell Telephone Road. It will serve the Blackburn area and other southern portions of the county.
• Highway 268 Station, located on the Broxton Highway past Snipesville. It will serve the extreme southern portion of the county.
Wasdin said the Snipesville Station’s volunteer firefighters could also serve the Highway 268 Station but currently the Snipesville Station is short of volunteers, so more are needed there also.
The pay isn’t exactly attractive, $7 per call or $7 per hour if the call lasts more than an hour. But the pay is accrued over the year and all volunteer firemen are paid in one lump sum in December.
“It amounts to a pretty good check for Christmas time,” Wasdin said.
There are fringe benefits. State law requires that the county carry cancer insurance for all firefighters, full-time and volunteer. And the volunteers are also covered by workman’s compensation insurance just like full-time firefighters.
If anyone would like to volunteer, they can talk to any firefighter, call the City of Hazlehurst’s Pat Dixon Road Fire Station at 912-375-6699, or go by the Pat Dixon Road Station and get an application.