Dauphin Island needs more firefighters

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Tonight we are asking if fire protection services could be improved on Dauphin Island after Monday's fire destroyed two homes. It's the third high profile, multi-structure fire that's happened on the island in the last 7 years. NBC 15's Andrea Ramey investigates in tonight's Reality Check.

By the time volunteer fire fighters got to the flames in the Audubon Place neighborhood, there wasn't much that could be done.

"It was pretty much to the ground when we got here. and catching the second house on fire," said Dauphin Island EMS Chief Jessica McGarvey.

No one was hurt but two homes are total losses.

It's the third time in recent years the department has been stretched thin, battling multiples homes at once. In 2015 two separate fires on the same night ravaged four homes a and business. The fire in 2010 burned four homes and badly injured Volunteer Fire Chief Brad Cox.

"One thing all of them had, there was a wind element involved," said Cox.

Cox says the combination of how the homes are built allowing air flow underneath, the constant sea breeze, and the fact that many of the homes are unoccupied and fully involved when the call is made makes the job much harder on his volunteers.

"Money is great. I need people," said Cox.

Right now, he has 14 active volunteers, who handle fewer than 300 calls a year. But he needs more, and that's one reason the department has a lower fire protection rating or ISO number of 5.

"There's always room for improvement. We typically use ISO to measure the health of the department," said Cox.

The rating measures response, water supply, and communication. And it can impact your insurance rates. The lowest rating is a 10.

To compare, Mobile Fire-Rescue's ISO rating is a 3. Gulf Shores is a 1, which is the best you can be rated. Gulf Shores is the only department south of Montgomery to obtain that rating.

"We are capable of conducting our mission, but what we need is more people to make it so we're consistent, able to everything we need to do," said Cox.

Right now, Cox says there's not the population or higher hazards like condos that would support a paid fire department.

If you are interested in becoming a volunteer firefighter, CLICK HERE.