(DailyFix.org) – You may not realize it, but the odds are good that if you need the assistance of your local fire department, the people you’ll meet will be highly trained volunteers. In 2018, volunteer firemen made up 67% of firefighters nationwide. Out of 1.5 million firefighters, 745,000 of them were volunteers. Sadly, volunteer fire departments are experiencing a crisis as the numbers of volunteers willing to suit up to protect homes and property from fire dwindle.
According to the National Volunteer Fire Council, the number of people willing to don a fire suit and volunteer numerous hours every week for training and preparation has dropped 17% since 1984. Compounding the problem, those who answer the call are growing older. Meanwhile, demand for fire services more than tripled over that time.
Historians can trace volunteer fire companies back to the 1700s when Benjamin Franklin founded the first all-volunteer fire fighting force in Philadelphia. Since then, and even over the last 30 years, running a volunteer fire department has become more complex. Long gone are the days a volunteer fire department could purchase a fire truck on local proceeds from hoagie sales. Plus, attracting younger members when two life partners often work full-time jobs and have other responsibilities is no easy task.
Making matters more challenging, COVID-19 is having an impact on volunteer fire companies too. Due to COVID-19 mitigation orders and safety protocols, fire departments haven’t raised much money. Some firefighters contracted COVID fighting fires, and around 100 died after getting sick on emergency calls.
What will state governments do to address this emerging crisis?
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