AVAWAM — Chief Leonard Toler of Avawam Volunteer Fire and Rescue has released the department’s statistics for 2016. According to Toler’s report, the Avawam Fire Dept. responded to 48 house fires, 35 forest fires, 38 wrecks with injuries and 142 EMS runs for an overall total of 263 calls to service for the year.
To help place the magnitude of this statistic into perspective, look at it this way. Volunteers with the Avawam Fire Dept. could make a run every single weekday for an entire year and they would still have to work one weekend within that year to reach a total of 263.
As striking as that stat might be, the Avawam Fire Dept. actually made fewer runs in 2016 than they reported for 2015. Chief Toler credits the drop in runs to improved fire prevention education and safety measures taken by the public.
The department conducted 204 hours of training last year, with two in-house instructors leading sessions every Tuesday night. In Feb., Avawam Fire and Rescue will receive the results from a recent Insurance Service Office inspection. If the Avawam Fire Dept. scores favorably with this inspection, citizens of the department’s service area could benefit by saving money on their home owner’s insurance premiums.
The budgets of Perry County’s volunteer fire departments are always stretched thin, but the previous two years have been especially difficult for our volunteer firefighters, due in part to a decline in donations coinciding with the county’s economic downturn and major cuts in funding from the Perry County Fiscal Court. In the past, volunteer fire departments in Perry County were given $10 thousand apiece each year by the Fiscal Court, but such is no longer the situation. Judge Executive Scott Alexander blames a decrease in coal severance tax revenue for the lack in fire dept. funding and Alexander says, in the future, he hopes to adapt the same practice held by previous administrations of allocating money for the fire departments.
Meanwhile, on top of the vast amount of time they spend training and responding to calls, Perry County’s volunteer firefighters also exhaust an overwhelming number of hours trying to raise funds. Yet, as Chief Toler’s report proves, local volunteer fire departments continue their 24-hour a day service to saving lives and responding to the community’s needs.
Following the release of his report, Leonard Toler said, “I appreciate all the hard work and time our members have spent away from family and friends to ensure the safety of our community and its citizens. Everyone did a super job this year and we hope to do as good next year or better. It is a pleasure to serve our community with all of you at Avawam Fire and Rescue. Keep up the good work and train like your life depends on it because it does. The life you save may be your own because, when things go south on a call, your training will kick in and help you get to safety and stay alive.”
Volunteer fire departments in Perry County are continuously seeking donations and organizing fundraisers. Contact the fire department in your district to learn how you can help.
Sam Neace can be reached at 606-629-3243 or on Twitter @HazardHerald.