Johnson County District 2 Volunteer Fire Department Captain Chris Pierce, observes his crew while responding to a structure fire in Trade, TN. Photo by Tamas Mondovics
By Meg Dickens
Firefighters are one of the most commonly seen first responders in Johnson County. With the slew of structure and brush fires recently, it is common to see a fire engine racing by to offer help. Now the county has an opportunity to help these essential workers improve their equipment, which in return provides better safety for both workers and bystanders.
It came to light that local volunteer fire departments qualify for extra support through Title III funds. Annually, the Johnson County government provides $18,550 for each of the eight departments and pulls together an additional $9,600, making the total donation per year $158,000. According to Second District Fire Department Captain Chris Pierce, the county has contributed a bit more for the last few years. Second District was able to purchase pagers with additional funding from the previous year. This year county officials can release forestry reserve funds to add another $80,842 to the budget, equaling $10,125 extra per department for the 2021-2022 fiscal year.
“The county has really stepped up the last few years,” Pierce told The Tomahawk about the increased support. “It’s really helped us out.”
The additional money for the 2021-2022 fiscal year has conditions on how it can be spent. Funds must be used on one-time expenses, such as new equipment, updates, or training. Officials ask each department to submit letters of intent for approval explaining how they would use the additional funding. That way, they can ensure that the proposed spending fits within the required conditions.
Pierce hopes to use Second District’s portion of the funding for a Firefighter 1 course. He estimates that this certification course costs approximately $1,400 total. Historically training either comes from department funds or out of volunteer pockets, according to Pierce.
Firefighting gear is notoriously expensive. Air packs alone come in at approximately $5,000 apiece. Pierce hopes to purchase some updated turnout gear in the future with department funds. Along with the additional funding, the Second District Fire Department is currently doing its annual fireworks fundraiser. For a list of local fire departments or information on county government, visit johnsoncountytn.gov.