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Clarkton Volunteer Fire Department Shows Great Love

Contributed

There’s a verse in the Bible that talks about the sacrifice a man with great love is willing to make for his friends. In Clarkton, there are about two and half dozen men and women who are willing to make that sacrifice every single day for their friends and neighbors.


They’re the members of the Clarkton Volunteer Fire Department.


Under the leadership of Fire Chief Jamie Smith, the group has been working hard to improve and excel as a small, rural, volunteer fire department. They spend countless hours in training, maintaining their equipment, and meeting state guidelines. This time is over-and-above the time spent answering calls for help – house fires, woods fires, car fires, motor vehicle accidents, hazard materials incidents, and even calls to help elderly citizens who have fallen and need help getting up. “Basically, you name the need and put out the call, and a firefighter will show up to help you,” Chief Smith said. “It’s just who we are and what we do.” Last year, the Clarkton Fire Department responded to 217 total calls which the Chief deemed “enough to keep us busy.”


The Clarkton firefighters meet as a department every week, the first three Mondays and the fourth Sunday of every month. Lately, they’ve been meeting even more often than the typical once-a-week because they were getting ready for their ISO (Insurance Service Organization) inspection which was held on Wednesday. An ISO fire rating is a score provided to fire departments and insurance companies by the State Fire Marshal’s office. After an extensive, thorough inspection, the fire department is given a score that reflects how prepared that department is to fight fires in its community. The ratings will range from a “1” through a “10,” and the lower the score, the better the rating. A “1” rating is a rarity, with only a little over 300 fire departments in the nation achieving this distinction. A “2” or a “3” rating is also extremely difficult to achieve.


These inspectors look closely at a department’s apparatus responses, their overall equipment (trucks, turn-out gear, ladders, fire hoses, and a long list of other equipment needed on a fire call), training rosters, contracts with the town and the district, the department’s charter, response times to calls, standard operating guidelines, hydrant flow testing and records, hose testing records, all related paperwork, and just about any and everything needed and used by a fire department.
Though the Clarkton Fire Department will not receive its ISO rating for a few months, Chief Smith said he thought the inspection on Wednesday “went rather well.” He added, “We had 100% of everything he asked for, and he even complimented several improvements we’ve made in the fire station. We feel good about the inspection!”


At the Clarkton Fire Department’s last inspection in 2017, they received a rating of 6/9 (ISO rating of 6 in the town and ISO rating of 9 in the district). Chief Smith explained that the district’s rating was not as good as the town’s rating because there are less fire hydrants in the out-lying areas and these hydrants are farther apart.
“If we can at least maintain the rating we had, that will be good,” the Chief stated. “But, of course, it would be better to drop a point; now that would be GREAT!” While their status quo would be an accomplishment, it’s obvious the department’s goal was to rate even better than they did at the last inspection.
“We did everything we possibly could do to improve our ISO rating,” Chief Smith said. “The inspection is over, so now we just wait to get our score.”
Since the 2017 inspection, the Clarkton Fire Department has made numerous improvements. They’ve purchased newer, modern turn-out gear, and they’ve maintained their equipment, even though some equipment is aging. The firefighters have had extra training, and they’ve re-done part of the inside of the fire station.
Not only does a good ISO rating benefit the people in Clarkton and in the district around the town because it provides a guarantee that the fire department is more than capable of handling any fires, but it also helps on insurance premiums for property owners, both commercial and residential. The lower a department’s rating, the lower the insurance premiums for the property owner. It’s a win/win for the people in and around Clarkton!
The Clarkton Fire Department serves about 5,300 people – about 1,900 in the town and another almost 3,400 in the district which covers almost 54 square miles. They have two engine tankers, one brush truck, and one service truck.
Clarkton has 27 members in the fire department with about 17 of them being active members, the Chief reported. He even has a handful of female firefighters. He said he would like more to join his department. “If we had a very dependable 30-member department, that would be awesome,” Chief Smith said. Any prospective member can attend three fire department meetings, put in an application, and talk to the officers. “We want to make sure the members are going to be a good fit with our department and be dedicated,” Chief Smith added.
The Chief said his department has even talked about starting a Ladies’ Auxiliary group to serve as a support for the firefighters in Clarkton. This would be ladies who aren’t specifically interested in fighting fires but who want to do something to contribute to the overall success and smooth operation of the fire department.
Chief Smith has been the Clarkton Fire Chief for a little over a year; he previously served in the Elizabethtown Fire Department, but when he and his family moved to Clarkton, he decided to volunteer in his new community. A knowledgeable, focused, dedicated man, he prides himself in efficiency, organization, and service. He has talked to his firefighters and worked to develop short- and long-range goals for the department. They all think they have a good department, but they are working – and working hard – to make it even better.
Personally, Chief Smith said he wanted to become a firefighter after watching the community service his late father gave to all of his friends and neighbors all over the county (his father was Jimmie Smith). “Daddy raised us to help people, and he showed us how to do that by the example he set,” the Chief remembered.
“There’s something to be said about a person who will show up on somebody else’s ‘worst day of their life’ and do something to help. That’s what a firefighter does, and I just love it!”
“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13 KJV)

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