CHARLES TOWN — When Jefferson County Emergency Services Agency (JCESA) won the Staffing For Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) award for $960,710 this fall, their plan was simple: Use the funds to recruit and retain more volunteer firefighters for the county’s seven fire departments. The county currently has approximately 160 volunteer firefighters and the goal is to add 100 more.
Their goal, however, is anything but simple to meet.
High Cost of Volunteer Firefighters
When Jefferson County Emergency Services Agency (JCESA) won the Staffing For Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) award for $960,710 this fall, their goal sounded reasonable: recruit and retain 100 more volunteer firefighters.
The word “volunteer” implies to many “free,” but Denise Pouget, Director of Jefferson County Emergency Services Agency (JCESA), explained that recruiting, training and retaining firefighters in Jefferson County is a challenging and expensive.
“To bring a volunteer into the company costs around $6,000 per person,” Pouget explained. “It costs $3,000 to put gear on their backs, $1500 to put them through fire school, $1,000 physical (required by the federal government), plus money for workman’s comp and other insurance. Typically, the fire stations incur all of the cost.”
She notes that the grant that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) awarded the county, which will pay out over a four-year period that began last month, will help off-set these costs and enable fire stations to be able to recruit more volunteers.