Volunteer fire departments in Lowndes County struggle to find members

LOWNDES COUNTY, Miss. (WCBI) – It’s a problem that is being felt across the state.

Volunteer fire departments are struggling to find enough members to adequately staff their departments.

That struggle is also being felt in Lowndes County.

This has been an issue for some time in Lowndes County, especially in Districts 4 and 5.

Now, that lack of personnel is sparking concerns and a search for solutions.

It’s a burning issue in Lowndes County, Volunteer Fire Departments are understaffed.

Lowndes County Fire Coordinator, Neal Austin went before the Board of Supervisors to get in front of the issue.

“Everybody’s house is their home and treasure so we want to provide as adequate fire protection as we can. We want to provide as much assistance to homeowners as we can, so this is just another way for us to improve the quality of service that we provide in Lowndes County, ” said Austin.

Departments in Districts 4 and 5 are seeing some of the worst shortages. They are also responsible for some of the county’s newly developed areas and the industrial park that houses several major employers.

District 5 Supervisor, Leroy Brooks says a comprehensive plan to address these issues is necessary, not just for safety, but also for growth.

“I think we are going to have to look at something that is really germane to industrial development. With growth and prosperity comes other issues and you need viable fire protection, ” said Brooks.

Even when they do have enough people on the roster, volunteer departments sometimes struggle to get personnel when they need them.

“Daytime is our most problematic because people have to work, our volunteers have to work,” said Austin.

Sometimes one District is relying on help from another district. That takes time, and those extra minutes are vital when it comes to putting out fires.

“You’re getting firemen responding from other districts and it’s a time element. If you’ve got to come from the farthest place in district 5 or 4 the average house is going to burn up,” said Brooks.

County leaders are looking at a number of options including a paid incentive to attract more volunteers.

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