Henry Co. & Martinsville Sees Push for Volunteer Firefighters

Henry Co., VA - Martinsville and Henry County need more volunteer firefighters, and a state-wide group is offering to help them recruit.

The Virginia Association of Fire Chiefs (VAFC) chose the localities to take part in their Volunteer Workforce Solutions program.

The push for more volunteer firefighters is heating up in Henry County.

"65 to 70 % of all firefighters in Virginia are volunteers, " said Jimmy Carter, executive director of the VAFC.

The organization received almost a $1 million in federal grants to help localities bring in new volunteers, and Henry County Assistant Fire Marshal Kiah Cooper can't wait to put some of the marketing tools they've sent to good use at upcoming events.
"Rather than just seeing somebody blazing down the road with lights and sirens, it's a lot more intimate to be able to sit down and talk and learn what really goes on at these departments, " Cooper said.
He understands why it has been so difficult to find and retain volunteers.
"People can't leave work because they're either too far away, or the companies they work for here just don't allow them to leave anymore like they used to, " said Cooper.
Bedford County Fire and Rescue participated in the program in 2011.
It helped them identify potential volunteers and raise awareness in the community, but the Chief there says the increase they saw was relatively small.
"We were the first in the nation to do this, so we really didn't have a marker to go by. It was like trial and error, " Carter said.
Jimmy Carter says they've found that participating localities get out of it as much as they put in. According to Cooper, his guys are ready and willing to hit the ground running.
"We want to make sure that we're giving the best service to our community that we can, " Cooper said.
The Assistant Fire Marshal says they are planning a few open houses at local fire stations, and they hope to attract volunteers at upcoming events at the Martinsville Speedway.