Valdosta Fire Department Planning Major Upgrades

A five-year improvement plan is calling for big changes for the Lowndes County Fire Department. Lowndes County's fire chief wants to add 10 full-time firefighters to its force, which is a huge step for a department that has relied on volunteers for decades.

The Lowndes County Fire Department has been using volunteers to save homes and lives ever since the mid 70’s, but because volunteers work during the day, the department has a tough time getting people to respond to mid-day emergencies.

"During the day when they're making a living supporting their families, that's when we fall short, and that's why we're trying to shoe up with the full-time people," says Chief Jim Fielding of Lowndes County Fire Rescue.

In his five-year plan, Chief Fielding has called for 10 full-time fire fighters to be hired, so a sufficient crew could be available during the day.

"They would man our trucks, they would be full time employees, they'll be certified just like any other paid department, and that's where we are going," he says.

In addition to adding several full-time employees, the department is also looking to add more modern equipment, and with these changes, having better response times would also help reduce insurance cost for county home owners.

The county commission is taking a look at the plan now and they say it makes sense that now is the time to expand and improve the department.

"It will require more stations, and more manpower, but we think we're in a very good position to begin doing that at this stage, rather than waiting until demand and the pressure is greater," says Joe Pritchard, County Manager.

Chief Fielding gave high praises to his large volunteer force, but said that adding 10 full-time firefighters would be an investment in protecting the lives in Lowndes County.

County leaders say they will look at ways of funding this plan without raising taxes, but they say even if there is a slight increase, residents would end up paying less in home owners insurance.