Mississippi’s Lee County will spend more than $50,000 over the next three years on accident and life insurance for its 300-plus volunteer firefighters.
The county’s 18 fire departments include only one — Tupelo — where every staffer is paid.
Lee County Fire Coordinator David Homan says workers’ compensation would not cover volunteers’ pay at their regular jobs if a firefighting accident kept them out of work.
The new policy includes a minimum $30,000 line-of-duty death benefit and up to $600 in weekly disability pay for up to five years.
Homan says volunteers answer about 6,000 calls a year. He says there have been few tragedies, but it’s good to have insurance. He says Lee County may be able to use it to attract more volunteers.
Since taking office, Mississippi Insurance Commissioner and State Fire Marshal Mike Chaney has tried to develop a plan that would provide disability coverage for the state’s volunteer firefighters.
The majority of firefighters in Mississippi are volunteers who work at other, full-time occupations. While most volunteers are entitled to some workers’ compensation medical insurance coverage as a volunteer firefighter they are not covered for lost wages from injuries sustained while fighting fires, often placing a financial burden on the families of injured firefighters.
At least 46 Mississippi firefighters were injured in the line of duty in 2007, the last year records are available. That figure may actually be higher, Chaney has noted, because not all injuries are reported.