When you require their assistance the volunteer fire departments in our communities are invaluable assets. Each of the seven departments within Nassau County serves their own district, or area, but they can be called to provide mutual aid to any other district. When a fire or rescue 9-1-1 call is placed, the volunteer station of that district will be dispatched along with the paid personnel of the Nassau County Fire-Rescue Department (NCFRD). Each station has an active roster comprised of many volunteers. These volunteers may be certified in any one area or multiple areas, such as: first responder, emergency medical technician, wildland firefighter, structural firefighter, pump operations, emergency vehicle operations, and others.
The volunteers provide many resources to their community. Many times a volunteer will reach the scene of the emergency prior to the arrival of personnel from NCFRD. This quicker response time is due to the volunteers living in the community they serve. One might even be your neighbor! This quick response might mean the difference between life and death. The volunteers also provide water to the Westside of the county for use by NCFRD onscene, due to the few and widely spread placement of fire hydrants on this side of the county. The volunteer stations have tankers, pumpers, or similar pieces of apparatus capable of obtaining water from a water source, such as a dry hydrant, and transporting it to the fire scene. In addition they have apparatus with purposes specific to our area. These apparatus include squads, woods or brush trucks, engines, an air truck/mobile rehab unit, and other support apparatus. The volunteers also provide manpower when needed. By having as much training as they do, these volunteers are able to assist the members of their community in many different ways.
These volunteers seek out additional training classes on their own time so that they can be more capable of serving their community. Unfortunately, earning respect from the personnel of NCFRD is a struggle for many volunteers. They often do not receive the respect that they deserve. Each department strives to respond physically to every call that they receive. If you do not see a volunteer on a scene, it does not mean that they did not respond to that call. Sometimes a department may respond by monitoring the call; this means that if NCFRD personnel request assistance, a volunteer is available to respond.
The volunteer departments have a board of members that run the business half of the department. Any money donated to the departments goes into the purchase or upkeep of gear and apparatus as well as bill payments. They also give interested young adults, such as myself, a chance to learn more about the fire-rescue service. It also gives us an opportunity to receive training and certification that can be used once we turn the legal age of eighteen.
The seven volunteer fire departments have been providing services even as their main source of funding is diminishing year after year. The main source of funding for the volunteer departments in Nassau County is the Board of County Commissioners. The volunteer fire departments have seen a 20% reduction in their funding since the 2010/2011 fiscal year. Most of the departments are receiving less funding, per year, from the county than the cost to employ one firefighter/paramedic for Nassau County for one year. Each department has significant expenses that must be paid. Several departments have recently purchased apparatus and are working to pay them off fully. A major change recently is the new National Fire Protection Administration code that requires structure firefighting turnouts to be replaced after its 10 service life expires. A set of new gear for one firefighter costs about $1,700. All engines and pumpers are required to undergo a ladder and pump test yearly to be sure that they are fully operational. Each department pays for these tests with their funds. Funds from the department are also used to fuel the apparatus. In addition to the expenses on the operational side of the fire departments they also have phone, electric, and related bills to pay in order for the department to continue functioning. Because the county does not fully fund them, the departments host fundraisers throughout the year. It is because of the gracious support of their communities that the volunteer fire departments are able to provide the services they do when their community’s citizens need it the most. Please support your local volunteer fire department!
Public Information Officer
Ratliff Community Volunteer Fire Department
Published June 21, 2012 by The Nassau County Record