The chiefs of the White Hall police and fire departments would like to beef up their numbers of volunteer members.
Fire Chief Sandy Castleberry and Police Chief Richard Wingard said that while they have no specific manpower goals in mind for recruiting, they would like to identify some potential candidates.
The volunteer fire department has 25 members, Castleberry said Monday, while Wingard counts 14 full-time paid police officers and 14 volunteer officers.
“A lot of people think we have a paid fire department, but it is a volunteer organization,” Castleberry said. Both Castleberry and Fire Marshal Bill Beadle receive a stipend for the additional hours they are required to work. Volunteer firemen and policemen are not paid.
Having at least 10 volunteers available to respond to all structure fires “would be ideal,” Castleberry said, adding those numbers are not always possible, especially during the work week.
“At times we need more volunteer firemen, especially during the daytime when many of our volunteers are at work and often out of town,” he noted. Several of the volunteers are full-time firemen in Pine Bluff and not available when they are on duty.
“We can always use more,” said Wingard, noting the police department must be prepared to meet a number of different types of emergencies.
Volunteers for both departments must make a commitment to obtain the necessary training: 100 evening and weekend hours over 12 weeks for police candidates and 32-hours in three classes over the first year for firefighters.
The city pays for all equipment required by the volunteers, who must undergo background investigations. That means a substantial investment by the municipality for turnout gear for firemen and everything from uniforms to service weapon for policemen.
“We are always looking for qualified individuals,” Mayor Noel Foster said, adding that White Hall has always been selective in accepting volunteers for the two departments.
Foster, who served as police chief before taking office as mayor in 2011, said candidates for volunteer police and firemen must acknowledge they have a “sworn duty to respond” and meet their obligations.
Volunteer firemen must complete 32 hours mandated by the state, including an introduction to firefighting, protective equipment and suppression of wildfires, and are encouraged to meet three Tuesday nights each month.
The two chiefs and Foster said the city will pay the costs of background checks and tests, plus purchase all equipment for firemen and policemen, which amount to a substantial investment in each candidate.
The equipment for volunteer police officers includes a radio, uniforms, service revolver and bulletproof vest.
“We take this very seriously,” Wingard said, noting the volunteers must be trained and prepared to handle any emergency they encounter.
One current full-time officer began as a volunteer and was involved in a fatal shooting and high speed pursuit his first night on duty, Wingard added.
Individuals interested in volunteering for either department can contact Wingard at the police department and can contact Castleberry by calling 247-1415 to obtain an application.