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New state grant aims to help volunteer fire departments with equipment

Posted at 4:59 PM, Jan 02, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-02 19:51:49-05

NOLENSVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — New equipment is needed to help volunteer firefighters save lives and a new state grant aims to make that possible.

Outside the front door of the Nolensville Volunteer Fire Department, the sign of development is hard to miss. Hundreds of homes are being built as families move to town, and volunteer firefighters are responding to more calls than ever. Nolensville Volunteer Fire Chief Adam Spencer said they had 9 firefighters a couple years ago, and now they have 57.

"We’re already off to a racing start, we’ve done 7 in two days, and so we’re on pace this year to do well over a thousand," Spencer said, "We’ve finished 2019 with 851 calls, and 103 of those for the month of December, and that’s the first time that we know of, that we’ve run over 100 calls in a single month."

The wear and tear has taken a toll, and they need new equipment to save lives. "We’re trying to raise money for new extrication equipment, rescue airbags, a new fire engine," Spencer said.

This year, the Volunteer Firefighter Equipment and Training Grant Program will have $500,000 to distribute after it was approved by the Tennessee General Assembly. Approximately 60% of fire departments in Tennessee are volunteer departments according to the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance. In the spring, the state fire marshal's office will start accepting applications.

"I’m very happy, it’s something that’s been needed for a while," Spencer said, adding that they will apply for the grant. Until then, he's raising money on his own. "We’ve been doing a matching donation challenge for our new ladder truck, and we had an anonymous donor commit a $60,000 match."

The growing pains in Nolensville has Chief Spencer looking to the future. One day soon, the city might need to bring on a few full-time firefighters and become a combination department.

"We’re going to have to get some sort of paid component to help compliment our volunteers, because you just can’t depend on volunteers when you start getting that busy," Spencer said.

The Nolensville Volunteer Fire Department operates through donations. They also receive some city and county funding so they can operate.