May 01, 2013 Edition

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Walnut Ridge Fire Department personnel Chris Bennett (left) and Dennis Kincaid (right) explain the gauges on one of the department's fire trucks to new volunteer recruit Deric Breedlove. The WRFD has received a grant to help recruit new volunteer firefighters.
TD Photo ~ Gretchen Hunt

Walnut Ridge FD receives
grant to recruit volunteers

Gretchen Hunt

Walnut Ridge Fire Chief Frank Owens said the WRFD is working to increase the number of volunteers at the fire department through a SAFER (Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response) grant.

Owens and Steve Jones, who will serve as grant administrator, wrote the grant.

"The purpose of the grant is to help the Walnut Ridge Fire Department recruit volunteers to have more of a response at a scene," Jones said. "As in other towns, over the years, through retirement, relocation, etc., there are not as many volunteers."

The FEMA grant was awarded through the Department of Homeland Security in the amount of $195,600 and will provide training, stipends for volunteer firefighters, equipment for new volunteers and administration of the grant.

The 100 percent grant does not require a match and will fund recruitment and retention efforts over a four-year period.

Jones said the grant will allow the department to recruit and outfit 10 new volunteers. The grant includes $22,000 to be used to purchase equipment and turnouts for the new recruits.

"Imboden got the same grant last year, and they have recruited eight members," Jones said.

Anyone interested in joining the fire department as a volunteer can request an application from Chief Owens.

In addition, $75,600 is budgeted for training over the four-year period, as well as $18,000 each year for volunteer firefighter stipends.

Owens said the stipends will be awarded on a points basis. Each time a volunteer responds to a call, he or she will receive points and at the end of each quarter stipends will be awarded accordingly.

Stipends will also be awarded for attendance at meetings and trainings. The grant provides for awards to be presented for things such as most attendance.

While the main goal of the grant is to ensure adequate response to all calls, Owens noted that a side benefit is that it will help the city maintain its ISO 3 rating.

Jones concurred saying that achieving a low rating is just the beginning for a community.

"It's a continual struggle," Jones said. "You have to work hard to maintain that rating."

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