Fire service: It’s about more than just volunteering

April 4, 2019

Putnam County is supported by eight fire departments, made up vastly of volunteers. These stations work hard, not only to protect life and property, but also to help their communities in other ways. Successful volunteer stations have more than a willingness to help, they have dedication, know the meaning of sacrifice and, above all, the persistence to never quit. They realize their value goes well beyond trainings and call responses. In our county, all of these stations have worked diligently to score high on the Insurance Service Office (ISO) evaluations they are required to have. Numerous hours were spent documenting, researching and fulfilling a long list of subjects and categories. All eight fire departments successfully improved from their previous scores, some by even more than one classification.

What does this mean to the community? Improved ISO ratings effective on Feb. 1, 2019, means savings to the residents of our county and businesses as well. This is proof that our fire service can and will strive to improve the level of protection we provide. These men and women work not only to protect, but to help save the residents money and provide added benefit. In this case, it helps confirm that the closer a volunteer fire department is to one’s home, and the hard work and commitment they give, means lower insurance policy cost for homeowners.

Putnam County utilizes the Fire Service Fee to help assist with keeping our fire departments open. This fee, however, is not nearly enough to cover all of the cost. Our fire departments also work hard to find alternate sources for funding and support. Grants are invaluable to VFDs. Federal grants have been dwindling, such as the Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program, which peaked in 2004 ($746 million) but has dropped to $350 million today. With over 15,000 applicants for this grant alone, on average, only 20 percent of the applicants are generally awarded funds.

Putnam County Fire Departments have excelled in this area as well. Our stations have successfully acquired over $3.3 million in grants in recent years. This has helped address staffing needs, allowing minimum national standard 24/7 staffing in Teays Valley FD and recruitment/retention incentives for Hurricane FD. Grants have also been awarded to replace inadequate gear, SCBAs (Self Contained Breathing Apparatus), and other items firefighters depend on for protection. While the county still looks for answers to fund apparatus replacement due to condition and age, our fire departments and Fire Board will continue explore all options in making our county a safer place.

Richard Pullin is the fire administrator for the Putnam County Fire Service Board. He can be emailed at rpullin@putnamwv.org. Learn more about the Putnam County fire services by visiting http://putnamcountyfireservice.org.