LIMESTONE, Tenn. (WJHL) — State officials have declared a week to bring attention to the commitment and dedication of volunteer firefighters. Outside of extinguishing flames and teaching the community about fire safety, they take time away from family and friends to do so.
Dustin Edwards, a captain with the Limestone Volunteer Fire Department, said taking on calls to help the community puts holidays and other family moments on the line.
“This past Thanksgiving I was on call from eight in the morning until probably three or four in the evening,” Edwards said. “So I mean, we missed a lot of family time.”
Being a volunteer firefighter can involve the same time and commitment as non-volunteers.
Edwards continues to state how it’s a financial commitment too.
“We do get county funding, but sometimes it’s not enough,” he said. “I mean, just that everything we do comes out of our own pocket to fundraisers and donations. We send out donation letters. And the response back from here is it’s amazing, but sometimes not enough.”
According to the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance, 147 Tennessee volunteer fire departments were recently chosen to receive equipment grants. Those chosen will receive grants this year as part of a $5 million volunteer firefighter equipment and training grant program.
More than 70% of Tennessee’s fire departments are staffed entirely by volunteers. Out of Tennessee’s 19,510 active firefighters, an estimated 11,229 are volunteers, according to the Department of Commerce and Insurance.
Dusty Kodet, a firefighter paramedic for Limestone, said like other volunteer fire departments, Limestone doesn’t just serve one community.
“We are going to come from Jonesborough and from Greeneville because other towns and other areas might not have that same response time,” Kodet said. “They depend on us really to protect their homes.”
Chief Tim Jaynes says firefighters ‘are a special breed.’
“They’re there in an emergency when most people are really stressed out and concerned as to what’s going to happen, they have people coming to the aid of their communities,” Jaynes said. “To get the recognition from Tennessee to stop and say, hey, let’s recognize the volunteers for the service that they do. It’s a big impact. It’s an honor.”
To find where you can sign up and volunteer as a firefighter near you visit makemeafirefighter.org.