July 24, 2013 — Most Carter countians have at one time needed an emergency responder.
Some of those local first responders are paid; however, some of them are not. The men and women of the local fire departments are some of those unpaid heroes.
There are seven (Grayson, Olive Hill, Norton Branch, Grahn, Hitchins, Carter City and Webbville) stations throughout Carter County. Olive Hill had the first established station around 1900.
These volunteers take time and energy away from their personal lives to help rescue the citizens of the county when they are in danger, just because they love doing it.
Grahn Chief Lonnie Sturgill is a 38-year veteran of the department and a member of the Carter County Fireman’s Association. He expressed concerns with the decrease in volunteers over the past years.
“If you do not get our younger generations involved the departments will become a thing of the past,” Sturgill said.
Fireman duties don’t stop with vehicle accidents and structure fires.
The process to become a firefighter is strenuous. After filling out an application, potential fire fighters attend weekly meetings and complete 150 hours of training to become certified. Continued training goes on throughout the year for all of the county departments.
“Some specialized training classes include: rope, swift water, dive team, trench, collapse, and confined space rescue,” Assistant Olive Hill Chief Jeremy Rodgers told the Journal-Times. “Those examples don’t include the basic, yet very dangerous, firefighting, vehicle wrecks, and EMS assistance.”
For more information about volunteering, perspective firefighters should talk with an active firefighter, or stop by one of the local fire stations to get more specific details.
“Volunteers are becoming a thing of the past and it's not just here, it's a national problem,” Olive Hill Chief Wes Gilliam said. “I'm basically asking people to give several hours a week of hard, dangerous work for zero pay.”
Gilliam said most people either love firefighting or don't want anything to do with it.
“I always try to do things to draw people here and keep them, Gilliam said. “We try and make it a family environment and kids are always welcome. There is always a need for good, hard working and devoted members, whom understand this is a totally volunteer based program.”
Crystal Damron can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 474-5101.