Fire departments nationwide are seeing a decline in the number of volunteers. Fire departments rely on volunteers in their day to day operations. Surprisingly, nearly two thirds of United States fire departments are volunteer, and nearly 70% of United States firefighters are volunteers.
Western Taney county is using a unique approach to recruit volunteer firefighters. "It is probably a little outside the box," adds Assistant Chief Bruce Bjorge. The department is using radio, Facebook, and other forms of advertisement to entice people in the community to be volunteer firefighters.
Joshua Single has a wife, two kids, and a full time job but still finds time to be a volunteer firefighter. "It's fun to fight fire and it's also great to help the community out. You always have people coming up and saying thank you," says Lieutenant Joshua Single.
An influx of volunteers would be a welcomed relief. "Oh yeah, we absolutely need the help! You can never have enough volunteers," adds Lieutenant Single.
It is not just western Taney county in need of volunteers. This is a nationwide problem. There has been a 13% decrease in the number of volunteer firefighters nationally over the past 30 years. "I feel like Missouri probably has seen those numbers increase quite a bit. Without being able to cite a specific percentage, I would say it's at least 10 to 15 percent greater than that," adds Assistant Chief Bjorge.
Assistant Chief Bjorge says he has seen a noticeable decrease in volunteers over the last two to three years. "It's becoming more and more difficult as families get busier, as people take on second and third jobs in order to make ends meet. It's getting more and more difficult to be able to recruit individuals to come and be a firefighter," says Bjorge.
There is good news, though! Bruce says these ads are sparking interest! "We saw a steady stream of emails, phone calls, and Facebook posts and things like that so we do know that these advertisements are effective and they are making a difference," says Bjorge.
Assistant Chief Bjorge encourages anyone with interest in being a volunteer to contact their local fire department. Kids can start explorer programs in some departments as young as 14.