New program offers additional support to Tennessee’s volunteer fire departments
NASHVILLE – As part of Fire Prevention Week (Oct. 3-9), the Tennessee Department of Commerce & Insurance (TDCI) and the Tennessee State Fire Marshal’s Office (SFMO) are highlighting a new program created to recognize and support Tennessee’s volunteer firefighters.
As part of Tennessee Governor Bill Lee’s commitment to serving rural communities, legislation (HB 772/SB 778) that created the Volunteer Educational Incentive Program (VEIP) through was passed this previous legislative session by the Tennessee General Assembly.
The program, which is overseen by the state Firefighting Personnel Standards and Education Commission, recognizes volunteer firefighters and encourages them to increase their training and earn additional certifications in order to provide greater safety to their communities and fellow firefighters.
As part of that training, the VEIP will provide $600 annually to volunteer firefighters who complete the program’s required 30 hours of annual training with educational directives related to achieving Firefighter I certification.
“Volunteer firefighters are the backbone of emergency response for most Tennessee communities,” said TDCI Commissioner and State Fire Marshal Carter Lawrence. “I want to thank Governor Lee and the Tennessee General Assembly for providing the leadership and vision that created this program. Through the VEIP, Tennessee’s brave volunteer firefighters will now have the opportunity to gain lifesaving training and greatly deserved financial support.”
Currently, more than 12,500 volunteer firefighters comprise approximately 63% of the total number of Tennessee firefighters. Of those volunteers, only an estimated 2,063 receive a small payment or stipend for responding to emergency calls.
“Through the VEIP, the Tennessee Fire Service and its members can now gain the valuable training that could make the crucial difference between life and death during an emergency,” said TDCI Assistant Commissioner for Fire Prevention Gary Farley. “As a lifelong firefighter, I wholeheartedly support this program and urge Tennessee volunteer fire chiefs and firefighters to learn more about it.”
“The Commission is eager to provide answers to any questions that members of the Tennessee fire service may have about the VEIP,” said Commission Director Anthony Grande. “Going forward, the Commission will work with all volunteer and career departments to continue to ensure the certification of any volunteer or career firefighter in Tennessee.”
Senator Mike Bell (R-Riceville) and Rep. Lowell Russell (R-Vonore), who were instrumental in the passage of the legislation, praised the dedication and hard work of the Tennessee fire service.
“Our volunteer firefighters put their lives on the line for our communities every day,” said Bell, who is the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee. “We are very fortunate to have so many people across Tennessee who are willing to fight a fire to save someone’s home, business or life. They truly exemplify our state’s nickname as the Volunteer State. This is a well-deserved cash supplement, and we will continue to look for ways to make their jobs easier and to help them with expenses they incur as they provide this critical service to our communities.”
“Volunteer firefighters work diligently to serve our communities and keep us safe, so it is vital that we aid in the betterment of their training,” said Rep. Lowell Russell. “I was proud to carry HB 772 that fairly compensates the brave men and women who take the time to go through extra training. I am grateful to Gov. Lee and everyone involved that are working to ensure our first responders are properly trained.”