New­ton’s vol­un­teers

The Covington News - - FRONT PAGE -

Based on a book writ­ten by Tommy Lee, one of the county’s found­ing vol­un­teer fire­fight­ers, O’Brien said the vol­un­teer fire sys­tem de­vel­oped in the 1960s to meet farmer’s need to pro­tect their crops and homes.

The county hired its first ca­reer fire­fighter Jan. 6, 1971, ac­cord­ing to the New­ton County Fire Ser­vice web­site, but the ca­reer ser­vice re­mained small for more than a decade, sim­ply sup­port­ing the grow­ing vol­un­teer fire de­part­ments that were the first re­spon­ders on the vast ma­jor­ity of fires.

Ron Sav­age, who is at Sta­tion 11 in Por­terdale and be­gan vol­un­teer­ing in 1969, said the vol­un­teers’ hey­day was in the 1980s and 1990s when those de­part­ments would have 20-plus vol­un­teers and had to im­prove their co­or­di­na­tion and com­mu­ni­ca­tion with each other.

New­ton County didn’t build its first ca­reer fire sta­tion un­til 1995, ac­cord­ing to the New­ton fire web­site. Over the years, more ca­reer sta­tions were built and staffed, and, as has hap­pened all over the U.S., vol­un­teers slowly took a back seat.

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