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Madison County Commission provides much needed support to volunteer fire departments

Last year, Madison County was cited as one of the nation’s top emerging housing markets in the United States.

The Wall Street Journal named the Rocket City as the 10th best emerging housing market in the nation. The Journal collaborated with Realtor.com to rank which housing markets are expected to provide both a strong return on investment—and are a nice place to live.

Apparently real estate developers and homebuyers also agree. The Madison County Commission approves thousands of residential lots annually.

Madison County Commission chairman Dale Strong cited Huntsville’s strong economy for much of the overall growth. “It just makes sense that home sales are going to follow jobs.”

But that tremendous growth results in challenges with schools and a road infrastructure that local leaders must manage. However, another factor that doesn’t get that amount of attention but nonetheless remains a critical function outside the city limits of Huntsville and Madison are volunteer fire departments.

There are 16 volunteer fire departments in the rural areas of Madison County. While these departments do have a critical role in protecting lives and property from fires, the name is a bit of a misnomer and doesn’t take into account the many responses for emergency calls. These 16 fire departments also provide rescue services, and a vast majority of their calls are emergency medical technician support to HEMSI.

While a small tax of real estate taxes (3 mills or $3 per each $1,000 of property value) help fund the basic operations of a volunteer fire department, many of them supplement their budget with private fund raising and local and federal grants.

These departments have an ally in chairman Strong. His father, Horace, was the founder of the Monrovia Volunteer Fire Department. Strong has served as a volunteer fireman in the Monrovia Volunteer Fire Department since he was a teenager. Today, as a matter of fact, Strong continues to make occasional runs with the Monrovia department despite his sizable responsibilities as chairman of the Madison County Commission.

The Madison County Commission recently approved community development block grants for each of the 16 volunteer fire departments in rural Madison County.

In addition to the $15,000 community development block grant members of the Madison County Commission approved, state lawmakers added more than $10,000 for continued COVID relief.

Toney Volunteer Fire Department president Heath Jones sees the grant as being crucial for emergency calls. Jones said he already has a wish list. “Airway suction units, advanced airways. We’re also going to purchase NARCAN to administer in the field if needed. Also, we’re going to get EMTs new trauma bags.”

“These volunteers do a tremendous job in providing important services to the sprawling suburban and rural areas,” Strong said. “Anything we can do to support their efforts improves our chances to save lives and property.”

Ray Garner is a contributing writer for Yellowhammer News.

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