Sunday, August 7, 2022

Bill Crawford: Firefighter Shortage Shows Need for Rural Plan

Mississippi remains mostly rural. Rural areas continue to struggle. New issues continue to arise. Still the state appears to have no comprehensive plan to aid rural areas.

You can add a growing shortage of volunteer firefighters to the known list of rural issues. Last week the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal documented problems facing Lee County.

“There are several departments throughout the county that are just not getting the response because they don’t have enough volunteers,” said District 1 Supervisor Phil Morgan told the Journal. “My concern is the fact that we’re getting to the numbers where it’s not safe anymore for the firefighters,” Marc Flanagan, Lee County’s fire coordinator said. “If there’s a chance of a rescue, someone has got to go in, and you can’t make entry with two people on scene.”

Not long ago, WCBI in Columbus reported a major shortage of volunteer firefighters in rural Lowndes County. 

The National Fire Protection Association has raised concerns about the declining number of firefighters. Declining fire response capabilities carry a double whammy. In addition to fire disasters, home insurance rates can surge. As reported by the Journal, “fire ratings influence insurance rates, and fire ratings are based on many factors, including the number of firefighters that are locally available, the number and type of trucks, whether fire hydrants are available and so on.”

Remember the other items already on the list?

Population changes. Rural areas are losing population and the remaining population is aging. Just in the 17 counties served by the Create Foundation in northeast Mississippi “12 of our 17 counties are losing population,” reported Lewis Whitfield, Senior Vice President of the foundation.

Brain drain. State Auditor Shad White calls that one of the state’s most challenging issues.

Nursing shortages. Hospitals have reported increasing vacancy rates and difficulty recruiting experienced nurses. Some rural nursing homes, clinics, and hospitals have reported turnover rates from 36% to 50%.

Teacher shortages. This year’s pay raises may help, but the State Department of Education reported nearly one of every three school districts in Mississippi is designated a critical teacher shortage area. The solution will take more than this pay increase.

Rural infrastructure. Crumbling roads and bridges plus antique water and sewage facilities may get some relief from recent federal infrastructure grants, but many problems will remain.

Healthcare. Too many uninsured persons, lack of physicians, and struggling hospitals contribute to high Infant mortality, obesity, and other mortality rates. Also, the national Center for Disease Control reported people in rural areas were four times more likely to die from drug overdoses now than a decade ago. And the age-adjusted suicide rate for the most rural counties was 1.8 times the rate for urban counties. 

Economic distress. Rural areas are major contributors to Mississippi’s bad rankings on poverty, wage rates, workforce participation rates, educational achievement, and more.

Lack of a coordinated, long-term plan to address these issues portends a bleak future for more rural Mississippians. 

“Rescue the weak and needy” – Psalm 82:4.

Crawford is a syndicated columnist from Jackson.


Anonymous said...

This is what you get when liberal progressives run the country and keep the sheeple dependant on their free shit/handouts. Keep 'em on the plantation.

Anonymous said...

None of this was a problem when Deputy Phil was governor!

Also wasn't a problem when Boss Hogg Haley was running the show.

Almost like tryin to blame Tater. Bless his heart!

Anonymous said...

Haley may have been a crook, but he was our crook and the best crook that money can buy.

Anonymous said...

I was a volunteer firefighter in 2 different communities for over 15 years.

It requires a substantial commitment of time, effort, energy and yes money from the volunteer to serve in this role. Today's kids have no sense of community. Just like their parents, life is all about the next party, trip or fun time. No room in their lives for volunteering.

It's also dangerous as hell. Even with the training offered from the State Fire Academy, being a firefighter has inherent risks.

As volunteers we never receive anything of value from the cities and counties we serve. One item I have considered is to allow firefighters to have access to state health insurance and the PERS system (obviously on a reduced scale).

Politicians should think about these things.

We are seeing the beginning of a crisis in public safety. It's only going to get worse.

Anonymous said...

@9:47am - Well said. Volunteer firefighter here - constantly talk about the immaturity of youth today who have no concept of long-term commitment nor having the mature judgment to work a fire rescue or medical incident.

Totally agree there's going to be (if there isn't one already) a serious crisis of public safety/service soon.

Crawford lives in Jackson said...

Can't tax, subsidize and government spend around this one key factor:

"Rural areas are losing population and the remaining population is aging."

Anonymous said...

Sounds like the good taxpaying property owners need to pony up for a paid fire department and pay those guys and gals to protect their property. Don’t understand why they’d expect anyone to ‘volunteer’ to risk their lives for them anyway. Military, police, sheriffs department all get paid, so should rural firefighters. Can’t afford to pay the taxes? Buy you a water hose and ladder and do it yourself. Everyone wants something for nothing these days.

Anonymous said...

Young people coming out of college are being indoctrinated to require an urban lifestyle. They want the myriad employment opportunities and entertainment which rural areas do not provide. In most respects Mississippi cannot/will not compete. Many of the old institutions on which rural communities depend will fail and fade away, Face it.

Anonymous said...

9:47, 10:41, you are the exact reason there is a shortage of young people in VFF. With your crap attitude toward youths, and delusions of grandeur, do you wonder why kids, who volunteer ALL the time at school and college, aren't knocking the doors down at your or any Miss. VFD?

I'm as old as you, and joined a VFD 5 years ago. It's a local consortium of a few very dedicated and competent folks, filled in by methheads, disgruntled EMTs, and folks who can't keep jobs. That's the brutal truth. Some of the folks are openly emotionally disturbed and unemployable. But, hey, they volunteered! Several are down right retarded, and that includes a LT. And he's just as arrogant (and lacking self awareness) as you. The Chief is a heckuva good guy, dealing with this band of misfits and malcontents. God bless him and his Asst.

I have plenty of time to play fireman, and money. But kids today have higher tuition than ever, by a factor of 5 to 10 times. Housing is 3 times higher. They've spent years "Volunteering" as a MANDATORY graduation requirement in both high school and college. They resent geezers like you who use a volunteer position and exhibit such toxicity and negativism towards them.

I don't blame them. Look at this thread of pompous arse VFD geezers. Instead of welcoming them and nurturing them, you repel youths.

Blah blah blah, today's kids....... Think, GranPa.

Anonymous said...

Youths today are more interested in starting fires than extinguishing them-

Anonymous said...

Go to the Hinds County website. Go to "Departments" at the top and scroll down to "Emergency Management" and click. Then go down to "Hinds County Volunteer Fire Departments" and click.

There are NO forms, NO information about joining, and NO contact information of any kind other than volunteer firehouse street addresses, and I'm guessing if you go down there, most of the time they're unoccupied.

Now I don't want to hear about lack of volunteers when you don't have a way for people to sign up.

Anonymous said...

I’m a VFD chief, and I lay the blame dead at the feet of elected officials. We can recruit all day long, but funds aren’t provided to equip them. We ask them to cover medical calls during the height of COVID (using their own gas btw), but when the legislature allocates $1000 “hazard pay” VFD’s are excluded. Speaking of COVID, I can’t show where one dime of the response money made it to our people. The training opportunities provided by the Fire Academy (Mike Cheney), are a absolute joke. While they have great courses, they either exclude the VFD’s or schedule the courses in a way that are unrealistic for someone working a job. For a state that is 90% covered by VFD’s, it sure seems like they have been forgotten. Don’t believe me, skip the elected positions and “fire coordinators”, go to your local station and get a real feel of how things are.

Anonymous said...

In some states, like NC IIRC, do 20 years as a volunteer fireman and get a small state pension. Other incentives, free or reduced tags, tax breaks, etc.

Anonymous said...

To 12:00
Lighten up Francis.

Anonymous said...

Well Bill, have you ever served or supported a
rural Mississippi VFD ?

I doubt you have.

Next you bloviate about the usual Democrat's talking points:

Nursing shortages
Teacher shortages
Economic distress

Sure, these are valid concerns ... but completely irrelevant to your original post.

What on "God's Green Earth" does a teacher shortage have to do
with extinguishing a fire ?

Anonymous said...

I have lived in several places where there was voluntary fire department and live in one now. In every place I lived I would much rather deal with the fire my self rather than have the voluntary fire department come to my house. The ones I have seen were untrained people causing more damage than good. In one are the chief of the voluntary fire department would run over someone on his way to a brush fire. Actually wrecked several pickups going to a fire.

Anonymous said...

"The ones I have seen were untrained people causing more damage than

I think you just described 98 percent of Antar's administrative staff.

Anonymous said...

@ 12:00
9:47 HERE,

You just confirmed my entire post with your "me first" attitude.

There's a helluva lot of difference between collecting for the f--g United Way and cutting a dead person out of a car at 3:00 am.

You're a dickhead.

Anonymous said...

This is a hard subject to balance. Some people who would/do volunteer grew up differently than your typical country raised volunteer. Those people may not know/didn’t learn the same things that most southerners take for granted.

When they do show up, they get categorized as being “an idiot” or “doesn’t know a damn thing, just in the way.”

People have to be taught things and are willing to learn. They just need some time. That might help recruiting numbers…maybe a little bit.

Anonymous said...

August 7, 2022, at 12:00 PM, it seems that you, or someone similar, post a good bit "against" what you all consider "boomers", whatever that may be. You used "GranPa, which isn't even spelled correctly, and I noticed you even threw geezers in there which from the tone of your post was used disparagingly. By the way, that's noway to talk to your betters.

I must ask, did some older person run away with your significant other, the apple of your eye, the holder of your heart, because, you come off as a really bitter person. You just hang in there. The right one will come along. You can text them, face-time, zoom meet, snap-chat, to your little hearts content.

You may even go as far as leaving your mom's basement to actually meet a live human, well let's not get carried away. I'm sure that would be a big first step. Work on that bitterness that's no way to go through life.

Anonymous said...

I live in North Mississippi and we have no fire protection, period. The closest "volunteer" department is about 4 miles from me but that's just a metal building with weeds growing over it and no trucks.....

Anonymous said...

We are dependent on the local VFD. Because we are nearly 70 years old, we volunteer to assist with the annual fried catfish fundraiser. My father was a long-term volunteer. When he got too old to man a hose, he directed road traffic during fires and car wrecks. My 32-year-old niece served on the VFD for several years but dropped it when she had her second child because of the time commitment and difficulty in getting a babysitter in the middle of the night so she could respond to an emergency.

Anonymous said...

I have lived in three states, and MS is the most backwards of them all. I have lived in five other countries and most of them are more advanced than MS.

That's a fact!

Anonymous said...

Bless those who volunteer.

Anonymous said...

9:47 is right.

The majority of the young hires are simply to weak and delicate to make it.
The elders laugh at them as they wimp out.

Parents who raised them will get to reap the benefits as their insurance rates triple.

Anonymous said...

9:47/7:27, you certainly know your way around a hose.

Time for oatmeal at the home, or are the dentures making your gums sore again?

Anonymous said...

After being involved 20 Years I was told - "I didn't need a key to the Station", I accommodated that Guy & haven't been back. I used to leave the job to Volunteer- but Never Again.

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If you get tired come relax at the Fox News Tent. To gain admittance to the VIP section, bring either your Republican Party ID card or a Rebel Flag. Bringing both will entitle you to free drinks.Get your tickets now. Since this is an event for trolls, no ID is required, just bring the hate. Bring the family, Trollfest '07 is for EVERYONE!!!

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