Safety is job one for fire departments around the area, the State and the Nation.
On Tybee Island, battling fire used to be done by volunteers, but that is changing.
More boots on the ground. That’s what are coming to the tybee fire department.
“In the City Budget next year we are looking at two more positions,” explains Tybee Fire Chief Ahley “Bear” Fields. “We will have one guy here at the fire station 24 hours a day.”
Two more full time firefighter positions will be funded by the city to replace the dozen volunteers who have been lost in the past year.
“There’s more accountability on the volunteers,” explains Fields. “Right now to be a volunteer, a state certified volunteer you have 95 hours of training you have to do, you have live fire burns you have to take care of.
Tybee firefighters have to be jack of all trades. Not just battling fires but medical first responders and certified lifeguards ready to hit the water at a moment’s notice.
“Its important for these firefighters and their families that they get the proper training before they go on these emergency calls to be able to help each other help the residents without becoming part of the problem,” says Fields.
Problems that soon a total of four full time and three part time firefighters will take on every day all day, without having to wait for a volunteer to arrive.
“Tybee is not a sleepy little island. You can look at the numbers. residential is 3000-4000 year round and on the weekend during the season we are about 20,000,” sayd Fields. “So there is a need for fire response 24/7.”
“With volunteers you are looking at 6-8 minute response time, career guys are rolling within 1-2 minutes.”
Minutes saved now which Fields now believes could save folks’ lives later.
The City of Tybee has set aside $30,000 for the new firefighters.
There are still 7 volunteers on staff to help as well as 3 part timers.
Chief Fields hopes to work with the City of Tybee to add two more full time positions by the end of the year.