Jeanna Brewer and Capt. Ralph Emerson said they hope to attract new blood to the volunteer force at the Dadeville Fire Department. The majority of Dadeville firefighters are volunteers, with only two paid employees included in the force. | Alison James
Jeanna Brewer and Capt. Ralph Emerson said they hope to attract new blood to the volunteer force at the Dadeville Fire Department. The majority of Dadeville firefighters are volunteers, with only two paid employees included in the force. | Alison James

Archived Story

Sparking interest in volunteering

Published 11:21am Thursday, April 4, 2013

Dadeville Volunteer Fire Department seeks new trainees

The Dadeville Fire Department is trying to spark some interest in volunteer firefighting.

“Firefighting is an art – a time honored art,” said Jeanna Brewer, firefighter and paramedic at Dadeville.

Brewer is one of two paid firefighters in Dadeville, the other being Chief Kenneth Thompson. With a limited paid staff, the department relies heavily on volunteers to provide necessary services in the community.

“Members that are going to show up are important,” Brewer said. “(We need) members who are going to make that commitment to help that we know we can count on.”

The department has a roster of eight dedicated volunteers, like Capt. Ralph Emerson, for whom firefighting has been a way of life from a young age.

“My father was the first chief in the Fulton County (Ga.) Fire Department,” Emerson said. “I started riding in the chief’s car when I was 15, and I joined the department when I was 16. I couldn’t drive, couldn’t ride an apparatus, but I was there.”

It was a calling  –  one he has been answering ever since.

“It gets in your blood,” Emerson said. “It’s a 24/7 thing – you’re always in that mode … You can switch from being calm … to wide open in 30 seconds.”

Brewer said she was also exposed to fire fighting early through her father, who would take her and her brothers on fire calls when necessary because her mother was working third shift.

“If there was a fire call, you responded straight from your house – you kept your gear in your car,” Brewer said. “He loaded us kids – all three of us – up in the backseat of that station wagon, and we went to fires with Daddy. I’d sit there with my little brother and my big brother – all three of us became firefighters, watching Daddy.”

But firefighting doesn’t have to be a family business for someone to volunteer.

“New traditions start here,” Brewer said. “You be the first person in your family – start a new tradition of service. You have to give back.”

Interested volunteers must be 18 or older and be physically able, as well as being committed to responding to fire calls. A background check might also be required in some cases, and volunteers must go through a required 200 hours of training, which results in certification as a first responder as well.

Emerson said all the hard work and long hours for no pay are worth it.

“When you have somebody who comes up and hugs your neck and tells you, ‘Hey, man, thank you’ – it’ll get you,” Emerson said.

But when it comes to explaining why they do it, Brewer and Emerson said it’s hard to describe.

“You saved something,” Brewer said. “You made a difference. You did something not a lot of people can do.”

Even people who aren’t keen are charging into a burning building can volunteer for the department.

“They can carry hoses, they can change SCBA bottles, they can help with salvaging overhaul – they can do all kinds of things on the scene,” Brewer said. “There’s a place for everybody here.”

The department is also looking for someone to take pictures and play a public relations role, in addition to people who can help with maintaining equipment, washing down the trucks and similar tasks.

For more information on volunteer firefighting, call Brewer at the station at 256-825-8534.

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