Volunteer firefighters may have to pay for background checks

Volunteer firefighters may have to pay for background checks
(Photo Source: WMC Action News 5)
(Photo Source: WMC Action News 5)

(WMC) - Volunteer firefighters in DeSoto County are ready to put their lives on the line every day, and Tuesday they face a new controversy.

Their board of supervisors are considering a proposal to have volunteer firefighters pay to have their background checked.

The background checks being talked about would cost about $23, and while that may not sound like much, many feel volunteer firefighters should not be forced to pay.

DeSoto County resident Eddie Van Strong says volunteers at the Nesbit Fire Station near his home has been putting out fires since the 1970s.

"Well we wouldn't - houses would burn down, we need every fireman we can possibly get in DeSoto County," he said.

But now volunteer firemen at the Nesbit station and 7 others may soon be asked to accept a board of supervisors' budget proposal that could result in volunteer firemen paying for their own background checks.

DeSoto County Board of Supervisors member Mark Gardner says the volunteer pay issue was proposed during budget talks.

"I mean all of our city employees have background checks. Anytime someone calls 911, whether it's a paid fireman, police, or sheriff's deputy, then I personally feel like that person needs to be checked out," Gardner said.

Volunteer firefighters declined to comment on the issue saying they will speak out as a group at a later date. Meanwhile the debate continues.

"They are volunteers, not being paid, so why should they pay for their checks? It's the principle of the whole thing," Van Strong said.

Gardner says having volunteer firefighters pay is definitely not a done deal, but he feels some kind of decision will be reached by September 15.

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