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Tellico Village Volunteer Fire Department proves age is just a number

The fire department has one of the fastest response times in the state and they are all over 50 years old.

Author: Olivia Dague

Published: 10:56 PM EDT October 28, 2023

Updated: 10:56 PM EDT October 28, 2023

TELLICO VILLAGE, Tenn. — The Tellico Village Fire Department is unique in a few ways. First, they say they serve a unique community of people that is growing in age and growing older. Second, they have one of the fastest response times in the state with an average of 4 minutes, compared to a national average of 6 minutes. The Tellico Village Fire Department is made up of retired volunteers, all of whom are over the age of 50. The median age for these firefighters is 68, about 30 years older than the average. "There hasn't been a single 911 call in the last five years that trained personnel have not shown up at the door to help," Assistant Chief Bill Ballinger said. "That is not the norm and every volunteer fire department across the country. I've seen people park their boat, walk off the golf course in the middle of around a golf." The department credits a wide array of past careers ranging from military, law enforcement, business and engineers to their success. They also said working out and an emphasis on health is crucial to being able to complete a physically taxing job. "We support all the other fire departments in the county also," Brad Ward said. "We go in the fires with the 30-year-olds and 20-year-olds. They normally try to give us a little joking grief about being our age, but when we leave the fire after five hours, they're hurting as bad as we are." The Tellico Village area has grown since Ballinger and Ward joined the department. They expect to have answered 1,400 calls by the end of 2023. They said that's about a 75 percent increase in five years. Even so, Ballinger said being a firefighter has rewired his brain, and he has a duty to help others. "People call us on their very worst day," he said. "There is chaos in their life. They've been hurt, they've been injured, they've been in a traffic accident, their house is on fire. And I get the privilege to go help them. It is a privilege that there is no other occupation I think that offers that."

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