VFD needs help
Published 5:24 am Wednesday, January 2, 2002
By By ROBBIE BYRD
The Nokomis Volunteer Fire Department is the fastest VFD in the county and state to jump into action, becoming fully certified and credited in only seven months to be exact.
But even with this surge of energy and aggressiveness, there's still a lot to be done in the 30 days prior to the Nokomis VFD responding to fires.
"We're waiting on a few things, but we should be ready to go in about 30 days," said Nokomis VFD Chief Elliot Chute.
With only one fully operational fire truck and no permanent station house, it should prove to be a busy 30 days.
Chute said that the addition of the Nokomis VFD to the area could help reduce insurance premiums and lower the current ISO rating for many residents in the area.
Susan Eiland, a volunteer with the Nokomis VFD, said when she and her husband attempted to get coverage for their home, they could only find one agency that would cover their home, rated a 10, the highest ISO rating that can be issued. For perspective, an Atmore resident's average ISO rating is 4.
"We couldn't get anyone to cover us," Eiland said. "We finally found one place that would, but it took a lot of calling. And we're paying almost $1,200 a year."
Chris Kirk of the Farmers Insurance Group, said that his company would cover an individual with an ISO rating of 10. However, he says the Nokomis VFD will not necessarily help reduce the ISO rating of most residents.
"Some of the residents in Nokomis are covered by Atmore FD," Kirk said. "So when Nokomis takes over their coverage, their rating could go up because of their quality of service. Until they get a substantial amount of manpower, training and equipment, it could really mess them up."
But Chute said that he is confident that his department will be able to reduce ISO ratings in the community once they get up and running — with the help from the community.
"We're really in need down here," Chute said. "Fire (department) funding in the county is about 30 years behind. Without the help of the community, we can't provide the best service. We're here to serve the community."
Nokomis VFD is facing numerous problems: outdated and non-operational equipment, low membership, tons of paperwork, communications woes and, biggest of all, money.
Eiland said she has a solution to the problem of low membership.
"It's my personal thinking that since they're he to protect us, at least one member from each household should become a member," Eiland.
Financial problems are also a big problem for the Nokomis VFD.
They will be receiving $5,900 from city and state funding, as well as applying for federal grants and community donations.
The Nokomis VFD said they are lacking a good bit of equipment, but their biggest concern is a station house, which is why funding is so important.
"We have some land donated, but we're storing the operational truck temporarily in a barn," Chute said. "Until we get the land deeded to us, we can't apply for federal grants to help build our station."
In all, contributions to the department include more than $170,000 worth of equipment. Contributing fire departments donating old equipment include Friendship Community, Lottie, Pine Grove, Rocky Ridge, Tensaw, Stockton, Flomaton and Fort Morgan.
But Nokomis VFD Capt. Wayne Harris said some of this equipment, while definitely useful, is outdated and in need of repairs.
The building for the station house will probably cost around $50,000, and the department currently does not have the cash to make it a reality.
Harris said new sources of revenue need to be found in the county to help fund the department.
"An ad valorem tax is really important," Harris said. "It would really help us get some much needed equipment."
Chute said that local governmental and community support is soft.
"We're the first place you'll want to call when your house is on fire," Chute said. "We work for you, and we can't without the right equipment and funding. At this point we can't guarantee the best fire protection our community deserves."
Chute said that all plans for dispatch and emergency communication are in place, and issuance of an Emergency Identification Number (EIN) is holding them back from responding immediately.
According to Chute, even when the department becomes fully operation, you should dial 911 to report a fire.
"We are dispatched through Atmore's emergency 911 system," Chute said.
If you are interested in becoming involved with the Nokomis VFD, contact Chute at 368-1886 or attend one of the VFD's board meetings. The next meeting will be held Jan. 8 at 6 p.m. at the Nokomis Baptist Church on Hwy. 31.
Anyone wishing to make a tax-deductible contribution can mail them to PO Box 727, Atmore, AL 36504.