Tri-State communities depend on volunteer fire departments

Here is KHQA's Facebook story of the day -- many Tri-State communities depend on volunteer firefighters, and that's not just the case in our area.

Volunteer firefighters staffed about 70 percent of fire companies in 2007 according to the U.S. Fire Administration.

KHQA's Rajah Maples spoke with the head of one local volunteer fire district about its responsibilities and challenges.

Terry Fuller serves as Chief of the Ursa Fire Protection District. His district covers almost 61 square miles with a little more than a dozen volunteer firefighters.

He said, "If it weren't for volunteer fire departments, it would be difficult for departments in bigger cities to get out in the rural areas. We're out in the rural areas, and we're the ones that can get to a fire quicker. It takes us time to get from where we're at to get to the station, get our gear on, getting in the trucks and getting out on the road to where we need to be."

The Ursa Fire Protection District receives about 18 calls a year and responds to grass fires, structure fires and even accidents and medical emergencies. Fuller says training is the district's biggest challenge.

Fuller said, "Being a small town like Ursa, our funds aren't there to send guys to go get paid training. We don't get as much training as we would like, but we do as much in-house training as we can."

"The biggest misconception with volunteer fire departments is we're called the foundation savers," he said. "Well, it takes us time to drop our stuff to whatever we're doing at the time we get our page to get up to the fire house, get our gear on, get in the truck and get out. So that misconception is all wrong. We get there as quickly as we can. We don't want people to get hurt on the way."

Volunteer firefighters face the same dangers as paid firefighters.

Two volunteer firefighters died fighting a fire in Burnside, Illinois in Hancock County in October 1997.