By Tammy Moore Teague
Four different medical calls came in on Monday afternoon, paging out first responders from Mansfield. That call had to be forwarded to Huntington, who also had no responders on call. The lack of volunteers, and trained emergency responders has been increasingly problematic, especially in towns like Mansfield and outlying rural communities. “The older guys are retiring and the younger folks are not volunteering,” summed Northwest Scott Volunteer Fire Department Chief Donnie Adkins.
Adkins noted “There are no disqualifications to serve with Northwest Scott VFD, except felons. We are a true volunteer department with no pay but if you live in our area, your $40 a year fire dues are covered.” In addition, his department will pay for the necessary training. Those classes include introduction to firefighting, personal protective equipment, wildland and CPR. Adkins teaches all of those classes with the exception of wildland. He also teaches a first responder class, which is currently underway.
“Well I am an EMT and work for a living but the VFD is passion and it has to be done,” added Adkins. “There are too many folks in the community that need medical help fast. That’s one thing I can brag a little about. NW Scott is blessed with medical responders. We have one paramedic, five EMTs, 10 first responders and seven firefighters.”
The Mansfield Fire Department, which is city rural, requires the same courses and those must be completed within the recruit’s first year. The applicant must undergo a background check as well as drug testing. “We do need help,” Mansfield’s Chief Steven Haysmer said. “Right now we are down to seven, and only one of those is a certified first responder.” Like Northwest Scott, Mansfield pays for member training, including fuel and out of town expenses such as food and lodging. Additionally, the city offers retirement and insurance. “You must have the heart to do this, but you also must have the stomach for it, it’s not for the weak,” Haysmer added.
Courses for Mansfield’s FD are conducted through Sebastian County EMS. The next course will be held at Hackett’s First Department on September 15 and 16. Haysmer concluded that their greatest need is for volunteers to work throughout the daytime. “We need someone who wants to make a difference in the community, and they need to be dedicated.”
The Mansfield city council voted on Thursday night to approve a new member, Josh Hiatt. If you would like to volunteer at either of these departments, or any other VFD, contact your local department for more information.
By Tammy Moore Teague