The Vandalia Leader

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Farber volunteer fire fighters need you

Posted on Thursday, February 15, 2024 at 9:12 pm

By Brandie Gay

It’s important for the public to know how difficult a grind it is for volunteer fire departments when facing response, recruitment and retention issues.

Although there are pockets of strong volunteer departments in growing communities across the country, it’s safe to say that the majority struggle with these issues.

If they can fill their roster—and I do mean if—response still usually is poor at certain times of the day and/or on certain days of the week. It has become almost impossible to retain long-term members, whether they are dismissed for not meeting requirements or they leave on their own because of burnout.

Information from the Firehouse site states that, in the 1990s and before, it was very easy to become a volunteer firefighter. Most states required little training before new members rolled out on their first call.

These volunteer departments responded only to fires, alarms and, possibly, some automobile extrication. Continuing education outside of regular department meetings was all but nonexistent and wasn’t a requirement.

The story continued with the run volumes. They were significantly lower than they are today, and they were so manageable that local business owners were more than happy to allow their employees who were volunteers to leave for emergencies. In these times, “the culture” was created.

These were the glory days of the volunteer fire service. These were the days when business owners and politicians were members of the local volunteer fire department.

People asked, “What can I do for my community?” not “What can my community do for me?” What it takes to join the department went from hours of training to multiple grueling days per week for several months.

Run responses started to change from strictly fires/alarms and extrications to include medical, hazmat and several other types of specialty responses. Because of the new responses and a busier world, run volumes started to increase dramatically.

The large increase in run volume became a burden for businesses to allow employees who were members to leave work for emergencies. Training requirements went from a monthly meeting to never-ending in-person and online commitments.

All firefighters, whether paid or volunteer, must get 218 hours annually to maintain ISO standard requirements.

Volunteers are asked to do this on top of a full-time job, a family, hobbies and, oh yeah, children’s activities—the same activities that used to be in the local area and only lasted a couple of months that now are year-round and require travel all over the state and sometimes farther.

The pace of human lives in the glory days of the volunteer fire service aren’t even remotely comparable with that of today, but yet, as a volunteer fire service/community government, they are still expected to be.

Citizens still expect 20 or more volunteer firefighters to spring into action when the alarm sounds to save the day.

The Farber Volunteer Fire Department is trying to raise enough money to pay for their new fire truck and new equipment. According to Harold Williams, firefighter, Farber has received an ISO of five down from a six.

This determines what the homeowner pays for insurance. As Williams said, one of the greatest needs for the Farber Fire Department is VOLUNTEERS.

Prospective volunteers who want time away from your family, eat cold meals, train to be a hero, wear cool gear and drive a big red truck, call Williams at 573-594-3521 or Gary Stubblefield at 573-721-1877.