Volunteer Fire Departments Feeling the Heat During Drought
Fire departments were busy this weekend battling grass fires in Montgomery County and surrounding areas. We spoke with a volunteer fire department about the strain the drought is putting on its volunteers. Jimmy Ellis is the Chief of the Shorter Volunteer Fire Department: “It has put a strain on our resources. As you know, volunteers are getting to be a thing of the past. Firefighters don’t volunteer like they used to be,” Ellis said.
According to the Alabama Forestry Commission, more than 500 fires have burned 7,000 acres of land in the past thirty days alone.
Responding to those fires have been a heavy burden for volunteer fire departments. With grass fires popping up along roadways, volunteer fire departments are having to rely on each other for help.
“When we have to answer calls along the interstate, and especially if we don’t have the resources to answer that call, we have to call other departments. And if you call in other departments to answer the call, then what do you have? That leaves their area vulnerable,” Ellis said.
That means the departments are being taken away from their normal coverage areas, leaving the area limited on who could show up in an emergency situation. The Shorter VFD was busy putting out a structure fire. It had to call in Tallassee Fire Department and Mt. Meigs-Waugh Volunteer Fire for help.
“We need them here right now. But, it’s vulnerable because they are over here,” Ellis said.
But Ellis told us the departments are always ready to give a helping hand, no matter what kind of emergency arises.
“We have bond. When we need each other, we’re gonna depend on each other. We’re going to call each other. And we’re going to get the job done,” Ellis said.
Alabama Forestry Service officials say nine to fifteen inches of rain is needed over a four week period to help alleviate the state’s drought conditions.