Training standards for Trousdale County’s volunteer firefighters were the main topic of discussion during Monday night’s meeting of the Emergency Services Committee.
The committee met to further look into details of a proposed merger between the Volunteer Fire and EMS departments. After passing on a first vote in February, the County Commission delayed a second vote until its April meeting to allow for more of the details to be worked out.
Tennessee law requires that part of the accreditation process to become a firefighter is having 16 hours of initial training, followed by a 64-hour basic course and 16-hour live firefighting course.
Trousdale County is exempt from those requirements, as are 34 other counties in the state.
However, assistant fire chief Ken Buckmaster stated that all but one current member of the VFD meet those requirements. Three new additions are in a six-month probationary period and do not yet have the training but are working to get it, Buckmaster said.
“All but one have taken (the state-required training)… I believe we have followed all that even though we are exempt,” Buckmaster said. “Whether we are exempts is moot, we took it anyway.”
Interim fire chief Mark Beeler said locally, volunteers must be 18, have a valid driver’s license and pass a background check and medical exam.
“Once they join the ranks (after probation), they’ll be considered a full firefighter,” Beeler told commissioners.
Beeler added that the department does not have a certified safety officer, but that knowledge was acquired through experience and the department’s routine training and that someone is assigned to that role when volunteers answer a fire call.
“They would not have attended an outsourced class on that, but our regular and ongoing training will include (that),” Beeler said. “We have training classes that come to us once a month… We have not ignored the training.”
County Mayor Stephen Chambers said he had held preliminary meetings with Beeler and EMS Director Matt Batey to discuss details of a merger and those discussions had been good ones. The mayor said discussions are ongoing.
Job descriptions for a combined department have also been an area of concern during past discussions. Beeler said currently, the only defined positions are for firefighter and chief. Assistant chief and captains’ positions are typically filled based on a combination of seniority and quality of their performance over the years.
“Incoming firemen will be counseled one-on-one so they understand those expectations,” Beeler said.
Steve Cross, an official with UT’s Metro Technical Advisory Service, urged firefighters not to “settle for the status quo” and to pursue state certification even though Trousdale is exempt.
“I think certification is something we all need to assure everyone we are at a certain level and continue to be at that level,” added commissioner Bill Fergusson.
Reach Chris Gregory at 615-374-3556 or firstname.lastname@example.org.