Help Needed: Fire departments in Bay County recruiting more first responders

Bay County

BAY COUNTY, Fla. (WMBB) — Fire departments across Bay County need your help.

There’s a nationwide shortage of first responders, and it has reached our area. However, departments in the county are working to assist each other in the search for more help.

Although the Springfield Fire Department has a full team, Fire Chief Brian Eddins is determined to help the other departments in the area find great new people.

“It’s just a brotherhood, that’s what we do… It’s brothers and sisters helping brothers and sisters,” Chief Eddins said. “They need help, so we all help.”

Some of the departments looking for help include the ECP Airport, the City of Panama City, the City of Callaway and the Bay County Fire Rescue.

The Airport Fire Department has the opportunity to work with machinery some people dream about.

“We do the same typical duties of any other fire department, we just specialize in aircraft,” Fire Chief Jerry Swearingen said. “The airport being focused on aviation, somebody who’s an aviation enthusiast would really enjoy working there.”

The Panama City Fire Department has an internationally-recognized dive team and fireboat operations team.

“We’re just wanting to get the word out that if you’re interested, wanting to get your hands dirty, and wanting to have a little fun, we’re encouraging you to come out and see our departments or talk to the college to potentially join the fire academy,” Fire Chief David Collier said.

The Callaway Fire Department is small, but close-knit.

“We’re very family-oriented… Family comes first,” Lieutenant Samantha McDaniel said. “We’re like family here each shift, and as a department, we look out for each other and we do a lot with what we have.”

The Bay County Fire Rescue has even ventured out to have a hazardous materials response team and surf rescue.

“We cover everything from a very urban and beach-type setting to very rural areas,” Lieutenant Ben Collier said. “It’s a wonderful department, it’s very family-oriented… The commissioners take very good care of us.”

The leaders said there’s a spot for anyone in any department.

“Any department would be a good department to work for,” Chief Eddins said. “That’s one good thing about Bay County, is we all work well together, and there’s not a bad department in the county.”

Chief Eddins said Gulf Coast State College has a firefighting academy to help train those interested in helping the community.

The deadline to register for the upcoming training is December 17, and classes begin January 6, 2022. Learn more about the firefighting academy at GCSC.

Learn more about the first response opportunities available at the ECP Airport Fire Department, Panama City Fire Department, Callaway Fire Department and Bay County Fire Rescue.

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