North Carolina Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey called Wilson Fire/Rescue Servicesâ€™ excellent fire rating rare in a Monday speech to the Wilson Rotary Club.
As commissioner of insurance for North Carolina, Causey is also the state fire marshal.
â€œI will congratulate Wilson,â€ Causey said. â€œWhen you take a city the size of Wilson, approximately 50,000 people, to get what your fire department got in that Class I rating, that is a world class fire department. Fewer than 1% of the fire departments in the United States ever qualify for that rating, so that is a big deal.â€
The high rating means lower insurance rates for city property owners.
Causey said civic clubs across the state are having the same problem as fire departments â€” attracting new members.
â€œIf you go back 30 or 40 years in North Carolina, 90% of the fire departments in North Carolina were volunteer,â€ Causey said. â€œPeople still donâ€™t believe that the volunteers are close to 70% today and 90% of our fire departments depend on volunteers, just like here in Wilson County.â€
Causey said thatâ€™s a big deal.
â€œWe have 1,351 fire station buildings scattered across 100 counties,â€ Causey said. â€œThe number of volunteers has been declining, so thatâ€™s why I have been on a mission to cover the state I took office on Jan. 21 of 2017 and I was sworn in a minute after midnight at a fire department to show my support for the volunteer departments.â€
Causey said the fire departments are having a difficult time.
â€œWherever you go in this state, the fire department is the hub, the center of every community, so it affects everybody when the fire department is having trouble getting folks,â€ Causey said. â€œOne of the best programs we have to offset this decline in the volunteers numbers is the program that some of the high schools have and you have a good one here.â€
Causey was recently at the Wilson Community College fire academy.
â€œThe high schools that have these junior fire academies and fire training academies, that is helping us a lot to bring more people into the volunteers. The younger generation, they donâ€™t have that same sense of community service that we once saw. We need to do a better job reaching out to particularly the younger ages. You canâ€™t want until they get 15 or 16 years old and start talking to them about the fire department because you will never get them. You have to start at the elementary schools.â€