Saturday was a banner day for the Gilt Edge Volunteer Fire Department.
Chief Brandon Fletcher said 4:06 p.m. marked an entire year since the department last missed a call for service.
“This has included not only our own district but also automatic and mutual aid to other departments throughout the county day or night,” he said.
It is a difficult feat for a volunteer department to manage.
“It’s virtually impossible,” said Tipton County Fire Chief Jon Piercey. “It’s a great thing, it’s a big deal.”
In addition to its four full-time departments in Atoka, Brighton, Covington and Munford, Tipton County has six volunteer departments to cover the rural areas of Charleston, Garland, Gilt Edge, Mason, Quito and Three Star.
“The full-time departments make all of their calls, that’s what they’re paid to do, but the other departments are staffed by volunteers,” Piercey said.
Prior to becoming the county’s fire chief in 2017, Piercey was a volunteer firefighter with Three Star for more than a quarter century and its chief for 15. He understands the demands and staffing in the rural communities.
“At Three Star, 99 percent of the staff works in Memphis so they’re not around and it’s hard for them to respond to calls. The way (Gilt Edge) is set up, it just works out that they can respond.”
Piercey wants to be clear calls for service are not going unanswered or missed altogether when volunteers are not ready.
“The fire department is set up to respond in support of an ambulance, for instance, so ambulances will still show up and paid firefighters will as well, but the response time will be longer.”
In 2018, Gilt Edge missed just 2 percent of its calls compared to 17.6 percent missed by Three Star, 19.6 percent missed by Charleston, 54 percent missed by Quito-Drummonds, 54.2 percent missed by Garland and 58 percent missed by Mason.
During the first three quarters of this year the response times by volunteer departments have mostly increased.
In addition to Gilt Edge not missing a single call, Three Star has only missed 6.8 percent of its calls, Mason is at 29.4 percent, Garland is down to 38.3 percent and Quito is at 40.8 percent. Charleston, however, has missed 27 percent of its calls.
Responding to every single call, Piercey reiterates, is “extremely hard” because staffing these areas with volunteers can be a challenge.
“The people who are there really want to be there. We need more of them.”
If you’re interested in becoming a volunteer firefighter, call Piercey at 901-476-2017.