VFD#039;s looking for improvement

Published 12:00 am Saturday, October 29, 2005

The Butler County Association of Volunteer Fire Departments is looking to improve not only its individual departments but the entire association as well.

Roy Mott, of the Alabama Forestry Commission, spoke to the association at its regular monthly meeting this past Tuesday evening and said that even though the state could not mandate what a volunteer fire department did, it could make suggestions as to how each department could best serve its community.

&#8220I've been asked a lot of questions about how things should be done,” Mott said. &#8220There are a lot of factors that come into play when you're dealing with a volunteer fire department.”

Mott said that in many volunteer fire departments, the people involved either resign or pass away, and documents and paperwork get lost or misplaced. As new people come into the department, the regulations and procedures may not get passed down, thereby, making it difficult for new members to always have access to the same information as present or former members. This, according to Mott, puts many volunteer fire departments at a disadvantage because over time, each individual department will begin to follow its own rules and procedures.

&#8220A volunteer fire department needs to be a non-profit corporation that has a board of directors made up of at least five members,” Mott said. &#8220You should have a president, vice-president, secretary, a treasurer, and a chief.”

He said that one of the main duties of the board of directors is to run the day-to-day operations of the volunteer fire department. Once a year, the general membership of the community comes in and elects the board. This is also a good opportunity for everyone in the community to get information about the department.

&#8220And, every household you serve is a voting member of that volunteer fire department,” Mott said.

According to Mott, not only should each department have a set of by-laws, but a volunteer fire department also needs at least $30,000 a year to survive.

Chris Hilliard, president of the association, told Mott that each of the volunteer fire departments in Butler County operates on a budget of $3,000 to $4,000 a year.

&#8220Most people have no idea about the general costs of running a volunteer fire department,” Hilliard said. &#8220We have the upkeep of the equipment, insurance on the vehicles, and the costs of gasoline just for starters.”

Hilliard said that the association is made up of 16 volunteer fire departments, and that the association itself can only be as strong as the individual departments that comprise it.

&#8220We've heard what Mr. Mott has had to say,” Hilliard said. &#8220We know the association cannot tell the individual departments what to do, but should it be allowed to give guidelines to the individual departments?”

He said that, as a whole, the association needed structure and basic guidelines and procedures that could unify it as a whole component.

&#8220If we have one department that doesn't care about its responsibilities to its community, or one department that doesn't comply with current regulations, it makes all of us look bad,” Hilliard said.

The association voted to create a committee that will establish general guidelines to assist in the operations of the individual departments. The committee will be made up of five association members: Jerry Gipson, fire chief of Brushey Creek VFD; Alvin Dantzler, fire chief of Georgiana VFD; Bruce Perdue, representative of Spring Creek VFD; Deron Springer, representative of Shackleville VFD; and Wayne Smith, fire chief of McKenzie VFD.

Hilliard asked the committee to report its findings at the next regular monthly meeting of the association, which will be held at 7 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 22, in Georgiana.