Who can be a volunteer firefighter?

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By Ken Begley

I can think of no more stirring symbol of man's humanity to man than a fire engine.

-- Kurt Vonnegut

Currently the Springfield/Washington County Fire Departments are seeking applications for volunteer firefighters. The National Fire Protection Association says that 69 percent of firefighters in the United States of America are volunteers. Do you know what the percentage is for Washington County? 100 percent. Can you tell me the names of just three of these volunteer firefighters that your property, and more importantly, your life and the lives of your family depend upon? No?

Well, you aren't alone. We should all feel bad because I’ll bet there isn’t a handful of people in the county, other than the firefighters themselves, who could tell you who is on the fire departments. Washington County is protected by four separate volunteer fire departments. They include the Willisburg, Mackville, Springfield and the Washington County volunteer fire departments. It’s a thin line of brave volunteers that frequently mean the difference between life and death.

These men are quietly and professionally providing a vital service to the community, which saves us a huge fortune in tax dollars, while they sacrifice their personal time and energy.

They receive little thanks and even smaller recognition from us, those that they protect, and that is a crying shame. It’s also constant struggle to keep their rosters filled. You know though there is an added benefit to being a volunteer that most young people wanting an exciting career have not thought about. That is the fact that most full-time firemen started out as volunteers. 

You can become a certified firefighter by the State of Kentucky if you begin as a volunteer firefighter in your part-time right here at any of the local fire departments. You can receive most of the 178 hours of classroom and hands-on training with our other volunteers, with the remainder of the training done at regional training events at state sponsored courses.

It’s true. One fellow I know worked at the same factory with me in Danville. His name is Mike Mulholland. Mike started his work in volunteer firefighting in Boyle County where he was fortunate to be assigned to a fire station that was volunteer. But almost all the volunteer firefighters were full-time firefighters in Lexington or Danville. After working with them for several months, the captain of his station asked Mike if he would be interested in applying for a part-time job as a firefighter with the City of Danville. Mike was hired by the Danville Fire Department in January 2000 as a part-time firefighter and, in January 2003, as a full-time firefighter. He has progressed through the ranks and is currently a Battalion Chief in charge of Second Platoon.

Mike lives in Washington County with his family. He volunteers at the Washington County Fire Department in addition to his full-time job of firefighting. So Mike basically went from factory work to a much more rewarding career and it started by working as a volunteer. It may not happen every time but, if someone is dissatisfied with what they are currently doing for a living, this might be a way of opening up an exciting new field as a state-certified firefighter while not leaving the security of your current job. It is also a way for someone to give back to the community and meet many new friends in the process.

I asked him how he got into firefighting a few years back. Mike said the turning point was when he was going home from work one day and saw a fire truck sitting outside the station. He didn’t know it at the time but it was waiting for one more volunteer firefighter to respond. As he got closer to home he saw traffic was backed up and several emergency vehicles were passing them up. It turned out there was an accident with the vehicle on fire and two people lost their lives. The next day he went to the fire station and applied to be a volunteer firefighter. His first day was on Mother’s Day 1998.

They needed just one more volunteer that faithful day and maybe, just maybe, those people would have survived to visit their own mothers on Mother’s Day. But it didn’t happen. Maybe you’re that person today that will make a difference in someone’s life tomorrow. Think about it. Then call the Washington County Volunteer Fire Department at 859-336-9718 or Fire Chief Jim Logsdon at 859-481-4490 for more information and an application.

Mike never regretted it. I don’t think you will either. Take care my friends.