Maury County needs firefighters and they’re hoping for volunteers, but this opportunity comes with a bonus that pays beyond the training.
Fire Chief Eric Hileman shows off the stations brand new rig, decked out with every tool and rescue device you could imagine.
But what he doesn’t have is enough firefighters to put it into play, so now he’s on the hunt for volunteers.
“The Maury County Fire Department is made up of 11 fire stations across Maury County. It covers all areas outside the municipalities of Columbia, Spring Hill, and Mt. Pleasant,” Hileman explained.
In recent years, the county has had trouble recruiting volunteer firefighters.
It’s a nationwide problem.
“Across the U.S. there is a decline in volunteerism because of increased time demands of family commitments, work schedules, people having multiple jobs,” Hileman said.
Career firefighters make up a small percentage of Maury County’s department.
Chief Hileman needs a lot of volunteers.
“We depend on about 200 volunteers to respond to emergencies around the clock,” he explained.
To get those 200 volunteers, the county applied for and received a $753,000 grant to recruit additional staffing by offering a college incentive.
“That allows us to fund $60,000 a year for four years to reimburse our volunteers going to college, so were able to pay for them to get a higher education,” said District Chief Richard Schatz.
That’s right: free college in return for their service. There’s also money for training.
“It allows us to give a stipend to our volunteers who attend required trainings and also responding to house fires or structure fires,” Schatz explained.
Maury County is counting on this grant to help keep its current firefighters and recruit new ones while growing its volunteer base.