ROMANCE, Ark. – The COVID-19 pandemic presented a lot of challenges including for a rural fire department in Arkansas that relies on volunteers.

Two years later though, the Floyd-Romance Volunteer Fire Department is bouncing back with more help than ever before. 

Assistant Chief Tommy Simmons for the Floyd-Romance Volunteer Fire Department said that when the pandemic hit it caused a number of problems. 

“Like other fire departments, just the lack of participation, people didn’t have an idea what the fire department was about,” Simmons said.

Simmons said that it took time to get the right volunteers. 

“Our Volunteers are 100 percent transplant, none of them are from this community originally,” Simmons said.

Simmons says they currently have 20 firefighters with 12 certified emergency medical responders, they’ve seen a big change. 

“September 1, 2023, marked two years of 100 percent response rate with no missed calls,” Simmons said.

According to The Arkansas Department of Public Safety there are 1003 fire departments. 28 of those departments are staffed by career, fully paid firefighters. The remaining 974 are either fully or partially staffed by volunteers. 

Simmons says trying to recruit volunteers in a rural area like White County can be difficult. 

“In a rural area, most people live in the country, but they work in the city so when they commute to work, they can’t make it back in time for a call, even if they have the freedom to leave their job. So, it makes it really hard for a department in a rural area to serve their community,” Simmons said.

Chris Gambetta and his family moved to the town from Las Vegas, Nevada last year wanting to answer the call for service. 

“My wife, my two daughters, my oldest daughter is actually a lieutenant here and then my son is in the junior program,” Gambetta said.

Gambetta and Simmons say firefighters receive multiple training to answer calls for fires, accidents, and medical services. 

“There has to be an inner calling inside you that wants to be able to help out and be involved in something,” Gambetta said.

Simmons said that although they’re in good shape right now, they’re always looking for volunteers.