Toney Fire Department faces challenges of recruiting firefighters

Toney Fire Department's president, Heath Jones, tells WAAY 31 this is a problem many fire departments face, but that doesn't make the challenge any easier.

Posted: Oct 23, 2019 9:04 PM
Updated: Oct 24, 2019 8:11 AM

The Toney Volunteer Fire Department is dealing with an issue that could impact its response to emergency situations. It is struggling to recruit new workers. 

Toney Fire Department's president, Heath Jones, said this is a problem many fire departments face, but that doesn't make the challenge any easier. He says there hasn't been a lot of interest in jobs with the department, but with Madison County growing, they need to keep up.

"I would be happy [to add] five to ten. I would be happy to just add and not lose any," Jones said.

Jones joined the Toney Volunteer Fire Department when he was 18 years old. Back then, he says a shortage of firefighters wasn't a concern like it is today. 

He says there are currently 30 firefighters at the department and recruitment has been a challenge. It doesn't help that the department is seeing more and more calls, as Jones links to the growth of Madison County. 

"We're averaging three calls a day now. I know when I first started in 2005, we didn't normally have daytime calls, we didn't have emergency calls during the day and if you did, it was sporadic," Jones said. 

This, he says, is where the problems arise. With a lack of manpower and personnel, his fire department can only do so much. Jones says they struggle to have firefighters at multiple emergencies.

"The issues where we are actually on a call and receive another one while on the original, we have to use backup departments to pull them from their district to help us with our calls," Jones said. 

The question is, why is there a lack of interest in becoming a firefighter? Jones says there are multiple factors, including no pay, because it's a volunteer position. Volunteers also are required to work several hours at times, and it's a dangerous job. Yet, he remains hopeful. 

"I'm staying optimistic about the process. I'm hoping as you see growth in community, hopefully, growth in interest in assisting as a volunteer firefighter may rise as well," Jones said. 

If you are interested in applying to work at the Toney Volunteer Fire Department, click here. 

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