Citizen Fire Corp Sparks in Cherokee

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

By Jessica Wagner, The Cherokee Ledger-News

Seeing the light through the dark smoke might be through utilizing area citizens looking to volunteer their time.

Due to impeding budgets, Cherokee County Fire and Emergency Services, in conjunction with the Fire Marshal’s Office, has spearheaded a county Citizen Fire Corps program to assist in nonemergency situations.

“Everyone knows there have been budget cuts, and everyone is shorthanded,” said Fire-ES Capt. Bill Hamby. “We are trying to use this (Citizen Fire Corps) to assist us and give us a little bit more manpower.”

Hamby said the Citizen Fire Corps is a subsidiary of the Citizen Corps, which is a volunteer-based unit designed to make communities “safer, stronger and better prepared for emergency situations.”

Fire-ES Fire Safety Educator Sgt. Babette Davis agreed, saying the Citizen Fire Corps was started nationally in 2004 as a component to the Department of Homeland Security’s Citizen Corps Program.

The Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office Division of Emergency Management utilizes a parallel program also found within Citizen Corps labeled Community Emergency Response Team (CERT),  a program that allows trained volunteers to take action in all hazardous emergency situations.

Now, Fire-ES is looking to step up their game by getting their volunteer-based Citizen Fire Corps in motion.

By use of a Citizen Fire Corps, Hamby said volunteers are opened up to a network of knowledge regarding the elements of the fire service.

“The Cherokee County Citizen Corps will give the citizens a sense of accomplishment and achievement,” said Hamby. “We believe there are a lot of people in this county who have some time on their hands and want to do things to fill that void. We are looking for that.”

What’s more, all volunteers are trained on applicable areas such as addressing and mapping at no expense to the department or county.

“It’s going to be associated with the county, but it’s going to take no funds from the county,” Hamby said. “The Citizen Fire Corps will self-support.”

In order to be self-sufficient, Hamby said the volunteers would need to feed off each other’s knowledge.

“We are going to set up the volunteers with what they will need and what we think they would like to do,” he said, adding that each volunteer has the potential to bring something to the table. “Say someone has a CPR instructor certification, then we will allow them to instruct CPR classes for us.”

Hamby said another volunteer might have access to stencils, which would allow addresses to be painted on curbs to accommodate first responders. 

“We are going to key in on what they already know and combine that with what we need,” he said.

According to Fire-ES Director of Public Affairs Tim Cavender, the Citizen Fire Corps also can educate the public on proper safety measures and assist in events such as Night Out.

“(Citizen Fire Corps) will help us complete task that maybe we don’t have the manpower to do,” Hamby said.

An informational meeting about the Citizen Fire Corps will be held April 7 from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Cherokee County Administrative Offices, located at 1130 Bluffs Pkwy., Canton. “We are looking for as many volunteers as we can get,” Davis said, extending an open invitation to the meeting.

Davis also said all interested volunteers are subject to a background check.

During this meeting, Davis said potential volunteers will be informed on the Citizen Fire Corps history and why Fire-ES feels it is necessary to have such a program in the county.

Afterwards, the volunteers will be given a membership package outlining ways they can assist the Citizen Fire Corps. Once the program is up and running, Hamby said the volunteers will run the corps themselves, with the Fire Marshal’s Office acting as the liaison.

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