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Highland Home Fire and Rescue Department needs you

What if someone you loved had a medical emergency and the ambulance was over 30 minutes away.

What if there was not an ambulance at all?

That is the dilemma that our community may be facing soon. Due to the declining number of volunteers in our fire and rescue department, rescue services may soon be discontinued.

What does this mean for you?

That means instead of some calls not being able to be answered, none would be responded to in our area. The area that our rescue now covers is very rural and spreads out several miles. It goes from Fuller's Crossroads to Helicon to Honoraville. Unfortunately with elimination of these services, other transport systems from out of town would have to be called in emergencies. For most of us, that means Luverne Rescue. Also, if the amount of calls becomes too much for our neighboring rescue services, they always have the option of not covering our area. This is a horrible thought.

In the 1960s and early 1970s, the Alabama Forestry Commission started programs that would help with rural fire defense. At the time, they would take surplus fire truck parts and build fire trucks to be used in different areas. This program was started due to the large amount of rural fires. There was not businesses or homes scattered throughout the areas, but mostly farms and woodland. This was such a problem, that the rural "fire departments" was started.

Mr. Robert Buggs, the Ag teacher at Highland Home School, was instrumental in establishing this in our area. He would gather school kids to go help battle these fires. In 1972, the Highland Home Volunteer Fire Department became official. Everyone in the community was involved in helping each other when tragedy struck. In 1984, rescue was added to the department

Why is it so hard to get volunteers these days?

It's easy. Rescue departments must follow specific state, federal and local regulations in order to operate. Rescuers must have EMT training, which takes a few months of schooling to be certified. Even drivers must go through an emergency vehicle operator's course. This is a great deal of devotion for a job that has no monetary reimbursement. Highland Home Volunteer Fire and Rescue is one of the only volunteer units in the entire state of Alabama. Many rescue units throughout the state have some sort of reimbursement system.

So, if you decided to become a volunteer, what sort of things would you have to do?

To become an EMT, you would have to go to a certified school that offers full EMT training. This usually takes six months from start to finish. You would then have to take a test to receive a state license. However, if you volunteer with our fire and rescue department, you would be fully reimbursed for your schooling after a year of service.

For drivers, they often hold a course in the area. Also, if schooling is not available immediately, alternate schooling close by will be found. For people interested in firefighting, in-house training is provided. Also, instructors come to the county to provide necessary training. Other volunteers are also needed: bookkeepers to assist with paperwork, carpenters, grant writers and mechanics are always needed.

Currently there are 17 volunteers on the department's roster. There are three paramedics, three basic EMTs and five drivers. Five of these volunteers are over 60-years-old.

Frances Smith, who has been an important part of the department's establishment, is sad to see the state of our rescue department. She has worked diligently to make the fire and rescue department more effective. She and Richard Jordan talk about days when there was so many volunteers they would have to assign times for them to go out. But those were the good old days. Now, with the rules and regulations and people's lack of desire to volunteer just making a run would be a positive thing. Luverne Fire and Rescue now make about one-third of Highland Home's rescue runs. If rescue closes down, they would possibly have to make them all.

So how will this affect us if this does occur?

First off, to make this clear, fire services will not be affected in the immediate future. However, no rescue services will be available. Highland Home Volunteer Fire Department would cover a portion of the area that rescue covers. As stated before, ambulance services would have to come from other areas. Also, medical personnel would not be available for ballgames and school events. Luverne Rescue would have to come from Luverne in case of emergencies. They would also cover any medical emergencies during the school hours. (These services from Luverne would be based on accommodation factors).

The closure would also mean that $600 would be cut from our fire and rescue department that is generated from tobacco and sales taxes throughout the county. Most runs for emergency are not billable due to individuals not having insurance or other means to pay for services.

This means that the income from all sources is barely able to cover expenses. The amount of runs each month does not justify a full time EMT. However, most of the volunteers must work in order to support their families. This is why some days rescue in our areas is very difficult to respond to. There is no one available.

We all must help if we are to keep this asset in our community. We must come together as a community to volunteer our time in order to help those who are helping us. If not, tragic consequences may occur.

The department is looking for anyone who can assist: the retired, the stay-at-home mom and people who just want to help other. You can help make a difference in our community. It is a very rewarding opportunity. It may not pay monetarily, but how many people can say they saved a life or a home today.

So if you see our volunteers out in the next few months tell them what a great job they are doing. Ask them how you can make a difference.

The Highland Home Volunteer Fire and Rescue meets the first Thursday of each month at 7 p.m. at the fire station. They also meet as a group every Sunday around 1 p.m.

If you have questions, you may call Richard Jordan at 537-4794, Jim Kull at 537-9610 or Larry White at 537-4249.

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If you have any comments, suggestions or information you would like to submit to this column, call Mrs. Wilson at

537-4511 or e-mail her at pen122@mon-cre.net