Two-thirds of the nations firefighters are volunteers, but that number is quickly dwindling. While the number of volunteers is declining, the number of calls have increased which creates the potential for many problems for smaller, more rural communities who heavily depend on those volunteers to keep them safe.
“We are losing volunteers fire departments because we simply don’t have volunteers anymore,” said Glenn Wittington, a former Fire Chief of Buffalo Volunteer Department. ” We’ve lost basically one a year for the last ten years, somewhere around the state.”
Its a national problem that hits close to home in Putnam County.
“Calls are going up… man power is going down…. its a daily struggle,” said Poca Volunteer Fire Department’s Chief, Shawn West.
West says the lack of manpower requires more departments to respond to a single call.
“We have a lot less people which now requires us to call in multiple different units to get more manpower which leaves unprotected areas,” added West.
According to the National Fire Protection Association, roughly 85 % of the nation’s departments are volunteer.
“It’s a lot of hours to put in and you don’t get anything for it,” said Wittington. “There is no incentive to be a volunteer fire fighter.”