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Proposal to recommend all firefighters be trained as EMTs

TIPTON COUNTY, Tenn. -- ndreds of small towns in our area rely on volunteers to staff their Fire Departments.

Take for example the Three Star Fire Department who only have two fire engines and 20 firefighters.

They're responsible for covering a broad swath of unincorporated Tipton County.

"We do the best we can for our community."

They get by entirely with volunteers and a modest budget which is why Assistant Fire Chief Dave Hessling said he's be concerned about a new standard from the National Fire Protection Association.

The NFPA is thinking about recommending that all firefighters be trained as Emergency Medical Technicians.

"I`d be very surprised to see a department, more than half of the departments, anyway, that would be able to easily implement that standard," said Hessling.

He said all of his volunteer firefighters are already certified as Emergency Medical Responders, and he said that's expensive and time consuming enough.

"To throw EMT on top of that would be — that`s an extra $20,000, $25,000 a year that I don`t have."

There's not a law requiring departments to meet NFPA standards, but Three Star's funding sometimes depends on it.

The department gets its money from grants, and some of those require you to meet certain NFPA standards.

Faced with the high cost of meeting those standards, Hessling said those firefighters who choose to will probably have to pay out of their own pockets.

"I would encourage them to go to EMT school. I`d encourage them to go to paramedic school. I can`t pay for it, but I would encourage them to go there."