Gibson Co. Volunteer Fire Dept. to hire full-time firefighters
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GIBSON COUNTY, Tenn. — A West Tennessee volunteer fire department manned by hundreds of selfless volunteers can no longer say it’s strictly volunteer. For the first time, the Gibson County Fire Department will go full time with the addition of eight paid firefighters. “When I got appointed as county fire chief, I never thought or considered we would become a full-time fire department,” Gibson County Fire Chief Bryan Cathey said. It’s a program never before seen in West Tennessee. “I think it couldn’t come at a better time for us,” Gibson County Mayor Tom Witherspoon said. “I really do believe that it’s just a blessing to us.” Although the Gibson County Fire Department has more than 150 volunteers, most aren’t available for daytime calls. “There’s been times when we’ve paged four stations and got only three people,” Cathey said. “I mean, it’s bad in the day time.” During the day, most of the department’s 11 stations aren’t normally manned. But this new grant will make sure eight firefighters are distributed around the county all day long. Cathey says there already are applications flying in for the positions, but after the two-year grant is up, the future is uncertain. “Not knowing anything after the two years, that’s kind of hard to do,” Cathey said. “But we have some people that are probably going to do that.” With a tight county budget, the expense could be devastating. “It’s a big undertaking,” Witherspoon said. “You’d be looking at probably $250,000 a year, and that’s just for four firefighters.” But for a department that’s had more calls this year than ever before, fire officials say they just have one hope. “The county commission sees this as a great program that they can’t do without it and will continue funding it,” Cathey said. Chief Cathey says they hope to start hiring most of the eight firefighters next month. Each one will work eight hours a day Monday through Friday. Even with these new hires, Cathey says they still are in desperate need of more volunteers. If you’d like to help out, call the Gibson County Fire Department at 731-723-9228.