Our View: Firefighting not as simple as going to a well
The North Carolina General Assembly has approved about $89 million in matching grant funds to volunteer fire departments through the administration of the N.C. Office of the State Fire Marshal since the program's inception in 1988. For hundreds of volunteer departments, including nine in Watauga County, the grants have made the difference between turning out to fires in proper turnout gear or attempting to fight fires, secure homes and save lives with substandard or nonexistent tools.
Deep Gap Fire Chief Mark Parsons said it well when he said simply that firefighting equipment is expensive, and that it's necessary to buy the “best of the best” when purchasing the implements of his trade.
We agree that buying top-notch gear is critical for what amounts to a life-or-death job done often by a volunteer force. Grants such as those from the Volunteer Fire Department Fund help to significantly mitigate that expense to local counties.
Still, obtaining such funding is not akin to turning on a hose. It takes savvy local administrators to apply for and earn such monetary awards — and it takes a community willing to share in the matching expense that such grants engender.
Fighting fires through our volunteer forces and a county willing to shoulder its share is a community effort — and one best accomplished through both prevention and the foresight to fund that prevention even during tepid economic times.