Preston County Commission helping light a fire for volunteer fire departments

Published: Nov. 30, 2021 at 4:49 PM EST
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KINGWOOD, W.Va (WDTV) - The Preston County commission agreed to help the firefighter shortage Tuesday.

It’s a problem in north-central West Virginia and across the country: a decline in volunteer firefighters.

Preston County Commissioner Don Smith says there had been discussion about what to do with the direct coronavirus relief funding that was provided to West Virginia cities and counties.

“We are actually going to be allocating $240,000, that’s $20,000 for each of our volunteer fire departments within the county to reimburse them for the things they need through this cares money,” said Smith.

Volunteer rates have dropped from a high of about 8 volunteers per 1,000 people in 1987 to a low of about 6 in 2017 according to the 2018 U.S. Fire department profile report published by National Fire Protection Association in February.

Preston County emergency management officials say they’ve seen a downward trend in volunteerism over the past 10 to 15 years.

“Volunteerism, it’s very difficult with the time and investment people have to make with everything else that’s pressing upon their time, jobs, family, is extremely important,”

That will take into account training, equipment and workers compensation for the departments.

“They’ll have to provide us the information, the invoices or what have you and then we’ll reimburse them for that because we have to have an audit trail and everything,” said Smith.

Smith says he hopes this funding will take some of the pressure off volunteer fire departments across the county.

“So that they don’t have to go out there and be working harder to get more funding,” said Smith.

The commission would like the funds to be paid out before June 1 of next year that way the commissioners can close out before the fiscal year ends on June 30.

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