published Thursday, January 30th, 2014

Grant paying for 9 Walker County firefighters

Walker County firefighters battle a blaze. Walker County has landed a $700,000 FEMA grant to pay the salaries for nine new firefighters.
Walker County firefighters battle a blaze. Walker County has landed a $700,000 FEMA grant to pay the salaries for nine new firefighters.
Walker County has landed a $700,000 FEMA grant to pay the salaries (for two years) for nine new fire

Walker County is hiring nine new firefighters, one of just three fire departments in Georgia to receive the grant money to do so.

"Getting one is kind of rare," Chief Randy Camp said of the grant. "It's almost like the fire department hitting the lotto."

Last month, the Federal Emergency Management Agency awarded Walker County Emergency Services a $697,000 grant to pay the salaries and benefits of nine new, full-time firefighters. The department is accepting applications for the slots.

Anyone interested in joining the fire department should visit its headquarters at 107 Alex Drive in Chickamauga. In particular, Camp is looking for military veterans. As a condition of the grant, the federal government will fund an extra third year of a firefighter's salary if he or she is a veteran.

With the new hires, the department's roster of firefighters will increase to 36. It also offsets the department's loss of three firefighters last October because of countywide furloughs.

Camp, who has been chief since 2001, has applied for this grant four times. Before this year, he had never received it.

FEMA still is awarding money to various agencies across the country.

Commissioner Bebe Heiskell said the financial assistance is much needed, given the county's financial health.

"It's wonderful to be able to have a grant," she said. "We don't have enough full-time firefighters."

The purpose of the grant is to help local fire departments reach the U.S. Fire Administration's standards for responding to an emergency. When a fire hits, a department is supposed to get six firefighters and two firetrucks to the scene within 10 minutes.

Of Walker County's 18 fire stations, 15 are manned by volunteer firefighters. Career firefighters are stationed at three locations: One in Chickamauga, one in Rock Spring and one in Old Mineral Springs, just outside LaFayette.

Today, three career firefighters are stationed at these three locations at all times. After Camp makes all of the new hires, four firefighters always will be stationed at those places.

Contact staff writer Tyler Jett at 423-757-6476 or tjett@timesfreepress.com.

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