Bradley County Fire-Rescue has recently seen both an increase in the number of volunteer firefighters and the number of hours volunteers and paid employees have completed in firefighting training.
At the fire and rescue board’s meeting Tuesday night, Fire Chief Troy Maney said the department had gained 30 new volunteers over the past month.
This new number came after the board discussed the need for new volunteers as recently as its October meeting. At the time, a full-time firefighter had recently left and Maney said the pool of applicants for any upcoming positions was down to one person who had expressed interest.
“We now have a total of 50 active volunteers,” Maney said.
He added the county would soon have more volunteer firefighters ready to be called into action and even apply for paid staff positions as they become available.
Training officer Ronnie Goss then gave the board an update on how training had been going.
Goss said the local department had been making a considerably larger effort to train firefighters locally.
“Otherwise, we would have to send them somewhere else to get that training,” Goss said, adding that local training has saved the department money so far.
The savings came from being able to do the training locally, with the department saving $300 that might have been used for each of the 48 people who have gone through training since January — a total of $14,400, he said.
The training that has been made available to local firefighters within the county includes level one live-burn training for situations like car fires, brush fires and interior fires. Goss said they could also begin offering Level 2 live-burn training that would allow firefighters to gain experience in dealing with more dangerous situations like propane fires.
Goss said the higher level of training would incur higher costs for supplies like propane, but it would still be more cost-effective than sending firefighters elsewhere. The $300 per person training cost also did not include travel costs to wherever the training would take place.
“We can better use the money for our facilities,” Goss said.
Bradley County firefighters had completed a total of 14,730 training hours between January and Tuesday’s meeting. That did not include the 15,000 hours local firefighters spent training with the Tennessee Fire Service and Codes Enforcement Academy this summer.
While local training means Bradley County now issues its own certificates for the training instead of the state, Goss said all training is approved by the state fire commission. Bradley County Fire-Rescue has also been able to hold state-mandated testing locally. So far, 134 people had completed practical skills exams locally, and 128 had completed written exams.
“The part that I am most proud of is the number of certifications we were able to do in-house,” Goss said.
Nearly 100 trainees became certified in everything from basic firefighting to Level 2 firefighting.
Training happens monthly at each fire station, and the next round of testing begins Dec. 14, so new volunteers can begin to learn the skills they will need on the job.
When fellow board member Benjamin Perez asked how the numbers of those who had trained and tested locally compared to last year, Goss said there was “no comparison” because the numbers were significantly higher than they had been.
Board members also discussed the Insurance Service Office audit that had taken place since the last meeting.
The audit looks at the department’s staff and facilities and assigns a rating that can be used by an insurance company when it is trying to figure out what it will charge. Maney did not know when the department would receive notice of its new ratings, but was optimistic things had gone well when the evaluator visited.
“There was not anything he asked for that we did not have,” Maney said.
Board member Ed Elkins said he thought the recent increase in local training would likely be in the department’s favor when the ISO rating is determined.