SEYMOUR (WATE) - The Seymour Volunteer Fire Department will soon be better equipped to fight fires and to respond more quickly to calls thanks to a $450,000 grant.
The grant provides scholarships for nine students who are willing to live at the stations and volunteer for the department in their time out of class.
The nine volunteers will have to apply for their spots, but those who get a spot will get $4,000 per semester for the next four years, as long as they are in school and working toward a degree.
The grant has its perks for the department as well - much quicker response times and educated firefighters.
Starting in January, the nine volunteers will be housed in four of the six fire stations.
"Really it was all about students and to provide them tuition in exchange for them to staff our stations. That helps in a number of roles. Where we lack response times at night, they'll be able to pick up some of that time," explained Seymour VFD Chief Kevin Nunn.
Former Seymour Volunteer Firefighter Kenneth Hicks said it would have helped having people at the station overnight when he volunteered.
"It takes awhile to get to the station, get your equipment and get started to the fires," he said.
It's not just fires these new volunteers will be responding to.
"When someone has a cardiac arrest, their brain will die between four to five minutes. At that point in time, we have to have someone on scene performing CPR. It may take a current volunteer to get up, out of bed, and to the station three to four minutes, so you're already at a deficit, so that critical time for someone to get from their house to the station is eliminated," added Nunn.
Even though insurance rates in Seymour probably won't go down as a result of the extra staff, people living there are relieved to have a few extra good people on hand to help in case of an emergency.
"It definitely makes me feel safer knowing that they're just a call away and they don't have to travel from home to there, get ready, come here. It cuts down on the time, the travel time. Definitely could save houses, I think," said Stephanie Housewright.
Chief Nunn said he expects having live in volunteers will cut response times in half, adding that the department's goal is to have 10 firefighters on the scene of a structure fire in 10 minutes. He says that's only possible with live-in volunteers.
Sevier County VFD has a similar program, but instead of scholarships, volunteers receive a stipend for standby time at the stations. Those shifts are either 12 or 24 hours.
If you're interested in applying for the Seymour Volunteer Fire Department grant scholarships, an information session is scheduled for Monday October 29 at 6 PM at Station One on Ford Hill Lane. For more information, call (865) 573-7475.