By Diane M. Robinson The News | 850-326-8866 @HCTA_Diane | Drobinson@chipleypaper.com

WASHINGTON COUNTY – Washington County's efforts to improve fire protection received a boost recently when three more volunteer firefighters earned Fire One certification.  

Cory Guster of the Orange Hill Volunteer Fire Department and husband and wife team Cody and Ashley Reese of the Wausau Volunteer Fire Department recently completed the training. Three more candidates from Greenhead VFD and Five Points VFD are expected to soon follow.

Volunteer stations like Orange Hill and Wausau have long experienced a shortage of certified volunteers.

When a new member is put on the roster, the recruit has one year to earn certification. The training consists of 206 hours of classroom work, then off to Northwest Florida Firefighters weekend to complete burns and sign off sheets. Along with the year-long process, fire departments also face the challenge of finding volunteers who can make the time to complete the training while still working full time jobs.

“The training is hard, and we are so proud of the things these three have accomplished,” said Washington County Fire Coordinator Rick Kerr. 

Having more certified firefighters means more coverage for that area.  The majority of stations have at least ten Fire One certified firefighters, with several having some who are Fire Two certified. The Fire Two designation means the volunteer has continued his or her fire education and has achieved career firefighter certification.

Kerr states it takes a special kind of person to volunteer, the kind who are willing to put their lives in danger to help the community they love.

“Volunteering to save life and property is one of the biggest and most rewarding things you could ever do in your life to help someone else," he said. "The men and women who volunteer get paid nothing, but they still do it and don’t think twice about it.”