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?

The Covington News - - FRONT PAGE - BY GABRIEL KHOULI gkhouli@cov­

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.

Gabriel Khouli/The Cov­ing­ton News

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.

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