LIVINGSTON,TN (WSMV) – A house fire in Livingston exposed a big issue as many fire departments across Tennessee are in need of manpower.
It takes less than four minutes for fire trucks to go from the Livingston Fire Department to Chestnut Street.
But in that short time, the Proctor family’s home was already engulfed in flames.
Arno and Pamie Proctor wanted to know why it took so long for enough firefighters to get to their home and to get the fire under control.
The fire occurred on July 3rd around 6:52 pm in the Proctor’s workshop. Sifting through the rubble, Pamie and Arno still cannot believe it.
“I tell ya, I hate this happened, and I love this house,” Pamie Proctor said.
Within minutes, the flames spread. Two of their dogs never made it out. One thing that still doesn’t sit right with the Proctor’s from that day.
“I hate to admit it, but I was cussing like a sailor, wondering where the fire truck was,” Proctor said.
Only one fire truck and one fireman showed up within minutes of their call, and it didn’t have the manpower it needed.
“There was nobody here to handle the fire hose…except my neighbor and I, and then her mom and dad helped us pull it up the hill,” Proctor said.
Based on call logs from that day, the first firefighter arrived in about 4 minutes meeting the recommended response time standards, but there’s a bigger problem than just response time: manpower.
“We’re a small fire department, we’re staffed with one firefighter on duty 24/7. And the rest of our guys are volunteers,” Chief Rocky Dial said.
The call logs also show that it took at least 14 minutes for back up to get there.
“Volunteers you know they have their own jobs that they have to feed their families with, and they have to have lives themselves,” Dial said.
An independent analysis conducted by the Municipal Technical Advisory Service, or MTAS shows the department didn’t have enough firefighters on scene to perform effective operations.
“I got to Chief’s meetings, and that’s one of the topics we talk about. The problem is every, it’s not just here,” Dial said.
According to the State Fire Marshal’s Office, there are 22,065 active firefighters in Tennessee. 14, 218 are volunteer firefighters in Tennessee, or 64.4%. Only 7,847 are career or employed (35.6%).
Since losing their home, Arno and Pamie have been outspoken on the issue. In several City of Livingston Board of Aldermen meetings, they have demanded that the city hire more paid firefighters. Nearly two months after their fire, Arno and Pamie got their wish. Livingston Board of Aldermen approved hiring two new firemen.
For Arno and Pamie, it’s extremely personal. Arno’s daughter, who lived right outside of Memphis, died of smoke inhalation a month before his house fire.
“I think, if I had gotten in the shower, and she wasn’t here, she was walking the dogs it would well have been me, that died of smoke inhalation in addition to the two puppies that died,” Arno Proctor said.
Dial also said there is a plan in place to continue hiring more firefighters. The Proctors said they’re tremendously grateful for all those firefighters who responded to their house fire.