Roan Mountain VFD awarded Junior Godsey Memorial Grant

By Kathy Helms-Hughes

STAR STAFF
khughes@starhq.com

   Roan Mountain Volunteer Fire Department soon will have mobile radios for its two newest trucks, thanks to a grant from the Kingsport Area Safety Council.
   Fire Capt. B.J. Carver said he was notified Wednesday afternoon that Roan Mountain was this year's recipient of the $1,000 Junior Godsey Memorial Grant. Godsey, who was a member of the Kingsport Lifesaving Crew, died during the Flood of 1998 while on a rescue mission. The grant was made available to volunteer emergency organizations within a 50-mile radius.
   Carver said he applied for the grant April 18, submitting a one-page narrative on what the department would do with the money if it was awarded to them. "I thought, 'This will never come to Roan Mountain,' because we're always the last to get anything," he said.
   Wednesday, however, Carver said he received a message on his voice mail from Ginger Mowdy of the safety council and returned the call. "She wasn't at work but the girl I talked to said, 'Let me get your number and I'll call her and have her call you right back.'
   "Here I came, driving down the road, and the phone rings," Carver said.
   Mowdy told him: "I've got good news for you. You all have got the grant."
   "I had to pull off the road. That was a shocker to me," Carver said. He was presented the check during a 7:30 a.m. ceremony Thursday at Eastman Employee Center.
   Carver said fire department members had been trying to figure out how they were going to get money to buy radios for the two new trucks.
   "They're not brand new trucks, but they're new to us. They don't have a radio in them at all right now," he said. "We got a quote on the radios today (Thursday), and it's going to tear $1,000 all to pieces. They're roughly $500 apiece with an antenna."
   The fire department acquired an older model engine from the forest service around February-March. "It's on loan but it's ours as long as we want to use it. They have a sticker on it that says, 'On loan from the Tennessee Division of Forestry.' As long as we leave that sticker on there, everything's hunky-dory, fine," he said.
   "The truck didn't have a whole lot on it when we got it. We had to put hose and firefighting rakes on it. It didn't have a radio. During the same time that we found this truck, we found another truck that we started building another tanker out of. The truck itself came from Nolichucky Fire Department. Then we turned around and bought a tank from the Embreville Fire Department and this truck didn't have a radio on it either. After buying the truck, we couldn't afford a radio," Carver said.
   At a business meeting Monday night, Carver, Chief Terry Profitt, the assistant chief and several members of the board of directors were brainstorming on how they could raise money to put radios in the trucks, Carver said, "because the one truck, we're running pretty regular now and the tanker, it's running now if we absolutely have to have it, but we're still trying to work on it a little bit. It doesn't have a pump on it right now. It's just a water hauler. But the engine, it's done been on at least one structure fire and I think a couple of brush fires."
   The fire department has applied again this year for a Federal Emergency Management Agency grant to be used for turnout gear and air packs. "Those are things that you try to keep up to date as much as possible, but it's also the most expensive thing you can buy," he said, at more than $1,000 per set for turnout gear and $2,500 to $4,000 each for air packs, which adds up when you have 25 members.
   The department's newest turnout gear is about 7 years old, according to Carver. "The rest is older. To us it's not out of date -- it's good gear; but if you start looking at NFPA standards, anything's that over 2 years old anymore is out of date."
   Elizabethton Fire Department received FEMA grant money last year to purchase turnout gear, Carver said. "Just about every department in the county tried for a truck because that's the most expensive thing you can get."
   When the city was awarded grant money, he said, "that put a bug in the rest of our minds: Try for something less and maybe we can bring something home."
   The department applied for around $68,000 in equipment this year.
   Carver said members also are trying to figure out a way to put up a substation in the Whitehead Hill area. "We've got a truck here now in one of our member's garage, and we're using it for a first-out truck from down here." It is being rotated out about once a month with the forest service engine.
   The engine paid off during a mobile home fire on Railroad Grade, he said. "It had about a 5 minute response time vs. what would have been probably 15 minutes." Most of the trailer was saved.
   Carver said the department probably will have to turn to community members for backing on the substation. "It would help lower people's insurance rates because it would help us drop our ISO rating. We're at a 9 right now. David Nichols [president of the county firefighters association] said we could probably make an 8 if we wanted to try to push it, but we don't feel real comfortable with it because of water problems and stuff."
   Last fall, the department was able to add on to its main station with the help of the community and labor from the Roan Mountain Work Camp.
   "The department would like to thank the entire community of Carter County because it was through donations that we got the addition on to our building," Carver said.
   Donations can be mailed to: Roan Mountain Volunteer Fire Department, P.O. Box 559, Roan Mountain, Tenn. 37687.