Alan Bohms sees the creation of a regional Volunteer Firefighter Monument and Education Center as a realistic possibility.
Bohms, a member of the McDonald Volunteer Fire Department and executive director of the non-profit Volunteer Firefighters Alliance, said in a recent interview that he has wondered why there is no local monument to active volunteer firefighters and their supporters.
"The guy that goes to the ham dinner [fundraiser] is as important as the guy who puts out the fire," Bohms said of supporters of local fire departments.
Bohms has been visiting local businesses and other potential financial supporters to gauge interest in the project.
He wants to locate the monument and education center on the grounds of the Mosheim Volunteer Fire Department, 7700 W. Andrew Johnson Hwy.
Mosheim fire Chief Harold Williamson said the fire department is behind the proposal.
"Our department has voted and agreed to put the monument on our property because of the location. It's close to Exit 23, and U.S. 11E is a four-lane with easier access for the location," Williamson said in an email.
"I think it's a good idea because (it) not only honors current and retired firefighters, it will help to bring another tourism attraction to Greene County," Williamson said.
Bohms said the planned 7-foot monument and adjacent education center "will honor and support all volunteer firefighters."
According to the www.SupportVFA.org website, sale of engraved bricks that will be placed in the courtyard of the monument has begun.
"The bricks can also be purchased as a show of support for the monument and the volunteer firefighters," according to the website.
The Mosheim Volunteer Fire Department already has a fire safety trailer on the grounds. With the addition of the monument and education center, Bohms said the site could be a field trip destination for school groups.
"As a kid, this stuff sticks with you, and (you will say), 'Maybe I can be one of the guys when I grow up,'" Bohms said.
Engraved bricks with up to three lines of text are now available for a tax-deductible donation of between $80 and $300.
There is already a Tennessee Fallen Firefighter Memorial, on the grounds of the Fire Service and Code Enforcement Academy in Bedford County in Middle Tennessee.
MANY VOLUNTEER DEPARTMENTS
Bohms believes a monument focusing on East Tennessee firefighters makes sense. The estimated cost, including an education center, is a little less than $100,000.
Out of 615 fire departments in the state, 541 are volunteer, Bohms said.
One-third of the volunteer fire departments in the state are within a 90-minute drive of the proposed monument and education center in Mosheim, Bohms said.
"With the help to local fire departments by fundraising for the project, it can also help for some extra funds for the participating departments," Williamson said.
Sale of engraved bricks for the monument could result in a percentage going to each participating fire department, he added.
That can be achieved through fundraisers to promote the monument, he said.
"This project could take up to a couple years to complete, providing how funds come in for it," Williamson said.
Williamson said the education center could include fire prevention materials, along with the history of fire departments and firefighting "so people know a little more about what firefighters do."
Bohms hopes interest in the project will pick up.
"Everything I try to do doesn't cost the fire departments anything," he said.
Engraved bricks can be purchased at www.SupportVFA.org. For more information, call 423- 393-3370.