THE LAST OF THE VOLUNTEERS
Newton County’s volunteer firefighter base is shrinking. Will that leave behind a more reliable group or does it signal the beginning of the end?
For decades, volunteers were the dominant firefighting force in Newton County. The County didn't build its first professional fire station until 1995, but in the 20 years since, the country's huge population growth and shifts in public expectations have created greater demand for full-time firefighters. Despite the volunteers' declining role, or maybe because of it, the county began mandating stricter training requirements. Since then, the county has lost 21 volunteers and more could be leaving in future months. County Fire Chief Kevin O'Brien said the training will ensure the volunteers are properly equipped to do their job while protecting themselves and others; however, some volunteers wonder whether they're being unceremoniously pushed out.
Volunteer Station 8 has lost 11 of its 13 volunteers and will soon have a career firefighter. The long-term future of this and other volunteer stations are uncertain.