TUPELO – Lee County will spend more than $50,000 over the next three years to insure its cadre of volunteer firefighters in case of accidents or death.
More than 300 residents volunteer as responders through the county’s network of 18 fire departments. Of those departments, only Tupelo relies solely on paid staff.
Those volunteers risked their lives without the same benefits available to paid staff, but that changed in mid-October.
“They were covered under the workmen’s comp of the county or municipality, but if they broke a leg and couldn’t go to work at their regular jobs, there was no help,” said Lee County Fire Coordinator David Homan.
Now, thanks to a recent move by the county Board of Supervisors, they’re covered.
Volunteer firefighters have a minimum $30,000 line-of-duty death benefit; weekly disability pay ranging from $200-$600 for up to five years; $20,000 to retrain them in another line of work if necessary; and other benefits.
The policies can be renewed in three years.
“It breaks down to about $1,000 per fire department per year, which is a really good deal,” said Board of Supervisors President Tommie Lee Ivy. “We’re very enthused about this insurance. These people don’t get enough thanks.”
Other supervisors also expressed gratitude to the volunteers, many of whom appeared at a recent board meeting to publicize the new benefits.
So far, the county has had few tragedies among its volunteer firefighters who collectively respond to about 6,000 calls annually, Homan said. But he said it’s good to have insurance just in case and hopes Lee County can use it as a recruiting tool to attract more volunteers.
“Lee County has stepped up to the plate and did something few other counties have done,” Homan said. “I’m real proud.”
Contact Emily Le Coz at (662) 678- 1588 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal