Rhome council working to solve a problem

By Michelle Pittman | Published Saturday, September 22, 2012

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Attention Rhome residents: Your city council is working to solve the problem of lack of volunteers for the volunteer fire department and to provide the vital fire protection and first response medical care that is expected by the citizens and businesses of Rhome.

The Rhome Volunteer Fire Department has only six volunteers to cover 64 square miles, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. In addition to this coverage area, our six volunteers also provide service for mutual aid agreements for the surrounding area.

The majority of the six volunteers are unavailable during the normal working hours because they have regular jobs that require them to be away from the city limits. Their daytime availability is limited by their paid jobs.

These volunteers risk their lives and answer calls alone at times because there are just not enough of them. Would you risk your life for people you don’t even know? The fact that we have only six volunteers means everyone else’s response is no, they won’t.

These volunteers have families they leave, sometimes on a daily basis, to serve and protect others – with little appreciation, at no cost to the citizens of Rhome.

I called 911 when my daughter was 7 months old and stopped breathing. The volunteers were the first ones there. That was 17 years ago. Would I get that response today? Not during the daytime.

Do I care if you have a personality issue with any one of these six volunteers? No, I don’t. As long as they are properly certified as required by law and following the rules required of them, what you think of them personally is of little importance. Their job is to provide fire protection and first response medical care, not to win a congeniality or personality award.

Yes, the mayor of Rhome is also the assistant fire chief. Should we ask him to stop so we only have five volunteers?

If you have a legitimate complaint regarding any of the volunteer fire personnel and have not filed a formal complaint at city hall or on the record at one of the city council meetings, shame on you. The city council can’t fix problems we don’t know about.

Yes, the fire department runs about 800 calls a year, roughly two or three a day. Is no response or a 20- to 22-minute response time acceptable to the taxpaying citizens of Rhome when a loved one’s life is in jeopardy? Your child? Your spouse? Your parent? When does it become an issue that needs to be addressed?

You tell me. I am a current council member. I brought this issue up back in July because I was concerned with no-response or slow-response calls. The fire department and the mayor did not push this issue; I did. I brought it up again at the public budget workshop in August.

If we pretend that this is not a problem for the city of Rhome, its citizens and its businesses, shame on us.

Michelle Pittman

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