Today Rowan County continues to have the same 21 rural fire departments operating that it has always had. This is saying a lot because in many counties rural fire departments have been forced to close. This can be due to many reasons such as loss of interest of volunteers, loss of money (many times caused by annexation of a city), or they decided it would be better to combine with another rural department of contract their fire protection with a city. The running of a fire department or the life of a volunteer firefighter has not got any easier over the years.
We now run many more calls, when I joined in 1976, Ellis ran about 12 calls a year in 2012 we ran 295. 295 calls is a low number for Rowan County as some rural fire departments run a lot more. Fire departments now have more regulations to comply with and the general public expects more from the fire departments than they once did. For these reasons the costs of operating a fire department has also increased, almost to the point that some can’t keep up. Volunteers are also getting harder and harder to find and keep and this has forced some fire departments to hire paid staff to answer calls during the daytime hours. So departments recognize the need for paid staff, but cannot find the money to hire them.
In closing, I want to encourage you to get involved with your local rural fire department to see how you can help. You may not be able to be a firefighter, but there are lots of other things to do. Remember a rural fire department is a business, we need board members, fire commissioners, bookkeepers, house cleaners, groundskeepers, maintenance people, mechanics and the list could go on. Go to the annual meeting and get involved, everyone can help for the betterment of the community.