HEADLAND, Ala. (WDHN) — A bill passed by Alabama’s House of Representatives will create incentives for volunteer firefighters who put their lives on the line for their community.
House Bill 94 would give benefits and protection to volunteer firefighters across the state of Alabama.
These volunteers put their lives on the line every day, and if the bill is enacted into law, it would give them a sense of security when heading out to dangerous situations.
Tony Wilkerson started being interested in fire rescue during the early 90s. He is now captain of the Headland Fire Rescue Squad and said the service to the community is in every firefighter’s heart, whether they volunteer or get paid.
“It is kind of one of those things that once you do it, it gets in your system,” Wilkerson said. “I make the joke it’s like a black hole. Once you start, you can never get away.”
Wilkerson said there are close to 25 volunteer firefighters in Headland and said just because they are volunteers doesn’t mean the dangers of the job are any less.
According to Wilkerson, roughly 80 percent of firefighters in the state of Alabama are volunteers, and this is why he believes HB 94 would be beneficial to cities like Headland and others around the Wiregrass.
“Small town like headland and other smaller towns around here,” Wilkerson said. “They do not have the funding to fund a professional fire department 24 hours a day 7 days a week.”
The bill would give the families of volunteer firefighters $100,0000 dollars if they are killed or disabled while responding to an emergency.
This is another reason why he believes HB 94 will give the volunteers a little incentive and security to want to take on the job.
“It gives your family a sense of security because up until now if you were a volunteer and something happened you have nothing to fall back on,” Wilkerson said.
Without enough funding to pay these first responders, Wilkerson said people really need to have the passion to take on a volunteer role. He believes HB 94 will be a great first start and won’t hurt getting people to step up.
“The biggest message I would like to give to the community is just to be safe in their practices because the safer they are then the Less likely hood that we have to putting ourselves in danger,” Wilkerson said.
If you would like to volunteer, he said the process is fairly simple. It starts with contacting the department and letting them know you are interested.