Pike County Times

advanced search engine by freefind
PO Box 843, Zebulon, Georgia 30295. You can donate through PayPal by clicking here. Becky Watts: Phone # 770-468-7583 editor(@)pikecountytimes.com
Welcome to Pike County Times.com

This online news website is owned and operated by Becky Watts. If you enjoy reading Pike County Times, consider buying an advertisement for your business or sending a donation to support the only free online newspaper in Pike County. Donations can be sent to: The Pike County Times, PO Box 843, Zebulon, Georgia 30295. Click here to donate through PayPal. Thanks for supporting Pike County's only free online newspaper!


Click here to go to First Bank of Pike's Website
BREAKING NEWS: Let's Talk About the Pike County Fire Department
By Editor Becky Watts

ZEBULON - Yesterday, Fire Chief Rick O’Barr sent out a message to members of the Pike County Fire Department over their 911 texting app at 12:23 p.m. The message was then posted on social media around 5 p.m. by a "friend of a firefighter" where a number of people from the community chimed in with questions and complaints. Pike County Times decided to ask some questions to find out exactly what was going on.

The message said, “Effective immediately we will no longer make any interior fire attacks or operate in an offense mode of operation. Due to the lack of properly trained personnel and enough to personnel to operate safely we will only operate in a defense mode.” Pike County Times began by asking Chief O’Barr what his intent was behind the message.

He said that the state requires seven trained, certified firefighters to be on the scene of a fire before interior fire attacks or an offensive mode of operation can be attempted. Pike County doesn't always have seven trained, certified firefighters who show up to fight fires in the county.

“It’s a safety issue,” he said. “I am not going to put my firefighters in jeopardy because we don’t have enough on the scene like we’re supposed to.”

So where do we go from here?

Requirements to Be a Trained, Certified Firefighter

What are the state-wide requirements to become a volunteer with the Pike County Fire Department? O’Barr advised that firefighters must be certified by the State of Georgia as a National Professional Qualified (NPQ) Level 1 or 2 firefighter or a Georgia Certified Volunteer with live fire training.

The Georgia Public Safety Training Center (GPSTC) offers training at the GPSTC free of charge as well as offering free lodging to those who qualify. This is a 95-hour basic training program that will allow those who complete the program to register with the Georgia Firefighter Standards and Training Council and, if doing so, must complete a live fire training requirement to become Registered Volunteer Firefighters.

Volunteer firefighters can also go one step further and choose to earn state firefighter certification by completing the 340-hour Basic Firefighter Training Program. Both programs are offered in Forsyth, Georgia. For more information about becoming a firefighter, click here.

Local and State Training Requirements

There is a regulation of 24 hours of annual training for volunteers with the Pike County Fire Department who are not paid, professional firefighters and 12 hour or more of annual training for paid, professional firefighters that is required by the State of Georgia. Pike County Times spoke to Training Chief Doug Neath in order to find out and understand the different requirements from both the county and the state when it comes to being a volunteer firefighter in Pike County.

Neath advised that the suggestion for 12 hours of local training per year for paid, professional firefighters came about during an audit by Alan Smith when he was conducting an audit for Firefighter Standards and Training to ensure that all of Pike County’s volunteers had completed their required 24 hours of state training per year. At that time, it was suggested that 24 hours of local training for paid, professional firefighters was needed for unit cohesion.

Discussion ensued afterward, and the requirement was written as 12 hours rather than 24 hours though 24 hours of annual training are still required for all firefighters by the state. How can volunteer firefighters meet this county requirement?

Neath advised that during a typical year, there are weekly meetings at the different fire departments throughout the county in which there is a review of the International Fire Service Training Association (IFSTA) Manual which walks through National Professional Qualified (NPQ) Level 1 or 2 firefighter requirements. “Every two years, the manual is reviewed from cover to cover,” said Neath.

If readers would like a glimpse into the standards that are required for our volunteers, click here.

Why would it be important to train for at least 12 hours with fellow volunteers in Pike County? This also ensures that there is unit cohesion—everyone knows and works together as a team—and that Pike County protocol is followed on a fire call with everyone working together rather than volunteers possibly following protocol from their paid departments.

It also ensures that everyone knows how to operate the equipment that is housed and used here in Pike County. “Every truck is not the same,” Neath said. “We train at different stations on different equipment so everyone knows how to work the equipment.”

Neath also advised that during a typical year, the fire department trains every Thursday at a different fire station for 2 to 3 hours each night. This would equate to 100 hours or more per year, and the 12 hours required from the county for paid, professional firefighters count toward the 24 hours required by the State of Georgia to maintain annual firefighter certification.

But this has not been a typical year because of COVID-19. The Pike County Fire Department chose to limit training to just a couple of classes and online training instead of conducting regular, weekly training in order to limit the possible spread of COVID.

“We erred on the side of caution,” Neath said. Then he found out that training requirements were suspended by the state of Georgia for 2020 so the 24 hours are not being required for this year though county firefighters are still going to get some training on topics that are important for area.

Neath advised that a UGA professor is coming up from Tifton this Thursday to provide farm equipment emergency training to the Pike County Fire Department.

Question About Rescuing a Victim in a Burning Structure

[Note from the Editor: This section was added at 6:40 p.m. on 10.20.20 because I had someone ask about rescuing a victim in a burning structure, and specifically the two on the inside and two on the outside method of rescue. I did not address that in my original article and appreciate the Chief being gracious with his volunteer time to answer yet another question. This entire section is verbatim from the email that I received from Chief O'Barr this evening.]

"In the fire service there are three things that we must consider at every incident:

The first is life safety. That includes the public as well as firefighters. If someone is trapped in a burning building, there will be rescue attempts made as soon as we have two certified firefighters ready to attempt the rescue and two outside. Prior to attempting the rescue, whomever is the incident commander will assess a number of variables to make sure the rescue can be achieved with minimum danger to the rescuers. This particular command decision is an extremely difficult one to decide, as you can well imagine. The two outside are totally focused on the rescue operation. Their primary responsibility is to keep an eye on the situation and be ready to aid the rescuers inside. This is known in firefighting jargon as two in/two out.

The second thing we must consider is incident stabilization. That is where we bring the situation under control (eliminate the problem). The fifth certified responder and those that follow have the duty of attempting to determine the source, secure resources, and begin operations.

The third thing is property conservation. That is where we try to minimize the damage to people and their property. The fifth and other responders also handle this.

At each incident, these three things must be considered in this order. Firefighters do all they can to rescue someone inside a burning building, but National Fire Protection Association standards and best practices dictate the method based on years of experience and research."

[Note from the Editor: End of added section.]


On a side note, the Pike County Fire Department had a truck that failed a Medical First Responder Inspection from the State about two weeks ago. This was part of the renewal of the Medical First Responder License that the county maintains annually. O’Barr advised that there was a seatbelt in the truck that did not retract as it should have. “This has been corrected,” he said, “and there should be a reinspection at some point soon.

Another side note that is important for the community to know is that our volunteer firefighters are not paid an annual salary. And those in leadership are not provided an annual salary either. The Pike County Commission is called to provide for the needs of the department in its annual budget.

The Fire Chief is a volunteer position with the county and so are the positions of leadership within the fire department. Vehicles are provided to those in leadership for a quick response, but they don’t draw a salary for the many hours that are given to the county in community service for fighting fires, conducting training, and making sure that paperwork in kept up for state requirements.

Volunteer firefighters do receive a small stipend of $10 for each call that they respond to which helps to cover their gas and a small amount of their time. The county has been doing this for many years as a way to show its appreciation for their dedication since many fire calls require several hours of our volunteers’ free time as they fight fires across the county.

And firefighters have to stay on the scene of a fire to ensure that the fire is completely out before they can go home. This prevents hotspots from reigniting hours later. Those who work regular jobs are not always available to go on fire calls because of the tremendous amount of time that is required in this community service.

O’Barr advised that there are seven county fire stations in the county that belong to the Pike County Fire Department with four certified firefighters at each fire station--28 certified firefighters in all. There are also six support firefighters who help with various department needs outside of a structure fire.

Four trained and certified firefighters from Atlanta and Henry County have also recently joined the Pike County Fire Department’s roster of volunteers. And there is always room for more! Pike County Times spoke to County Manager Brandon Rogers today to find out what it would take in order to volunteer for the county.

A potential volunteer will need to call the County Commission Office to obtain an application, fill it out, and return it. The application is then reviewed by the Pike County Fire Department. After approval is given for the new volunteer, a short period of time is required to input their information into the system. Then another short amount of time will be required to issue a radio and turnout gear. (Pike County Times is aware that there have been some logistical issues that were worked out over the past four months. A system is going into place with the new administration that will accommodate the fire department and our new volunteers.)

If you or someone you know would be interested in joining the Pike County Volunteer Fire Department, please contact the County Commission Office at 770-567-3406 to obtain an application.

[Pike County Times extends a note of thanks to everyone who answered my questions. I'm extremely picky about what I report and how it is reported so it was not an easy job for anyone who was on the other end of my questions!]

Thank you to First Bank of Pike for sponsoring Pike County Times’ Breaking News Alerts! First Bank of Pike has been serving customers in Pike County and the surrounding area since 1901 and offers Personal and Business banking with a personal touch. Services include checking, savings, money market, certificates of deposit, and IRA’s. Mobile Banking and Bill Payment services are also available! Click here for more. Please let First Bank of Pike know that you appreciate their sponsorship of Breaking News Alerts on Pike County's only FREE online newspaper!

If you want to find out about how you can get Breaking News Alerts, click here. Thanks for reading and supporting Pike County Times.com!