Stewart Simmons VFD earns state recognition
The Stewart Simmons Volunteer Fire Department was the first department in the state to receive a certificate of appreciation for going above and beyond in training hours.
Volunteer firefighters are required to complete 150 hours of training to meet North Carolina standards, according to chief Doug Berry of SSVFD.
The members of the Stewart Simmons department sought full certification at the national level, which requires 450 hours of training. Firefighters also complete continuing education training throughout the year.
Berry said the department received the state recognition for the growth in the department and increase in training in just four years. As of November 2005, there were two firefighters on the department that met national standards. Currently, there are 19.
There are 38 members on roster for SSVFD, 34 of which have met the minimum requirements for first responders. The department has also more than quadrupled the number of those certified in hazardous material awareness and operations, from 3 to 21.
The Stewart Simmons department also has the highest ratio of volunteer firefighters to population in the fire district. There are 510 residents.
Berry said the members average 40-80 hours per month in the classroom for training to increase their certifications.
"It is a career builder for the volunteers, as they can take the skills learned to get a job," Berry said. He added that several other volunteer departments in the county are striving for the national level certifications as well.
The SSVFD was surprised at their December department meeting by Wayne Bailey, certification specialist in the office of the state fire marshal.
Bailey presented the chief with the certificate reading "In recognition for going over and beyond the call of duty in training and certifying their members to state and national standards. These certification efforts are being used to protect life and property in their community and to ensure everybody goes home."