SUSSEX COUNTY, Del. – They’re the first ones we call when there’s a fire or medical emergency.But these volunteer firefighters who we rely on each and every day are becoming more scarce as the years go by.
“Some departments are seeing it more than others, and some of your smaller departments and smaller communities are really affected by it,” said Fire Chief Shawn Johnson of the Delmar Fire Department.
Fire officials tell 47 ABC departments across Sussex County are feeling the stress of this volunteer shortage especially as the area continues to grow at such a rapid pace.
“The more homes, the more people, the more our call volume increases,” said Executive Manager for the Delaware Volunteer Firefighters Association, Warren Jones.
Many say the reason for the shortage is the amount of time and commitment volunteers are required to spend with the fire department.
“It takes a lot of training; it takes a lot of effort, time, and dedication to join,” said Delaware Volunteer Firefighters Association Vice President, Jay Jones.
For other fire departments, they say their location also plays a role as to why they’re not getting as many volunteers.
“It’s especially critical to us here in the beach area of Sussex County because a lot of the folks moving down here are retired or seniors, who aren’t the type of people who would be joining volunteer fire companies,” said Warren.
And since these department are required to respond to emergencies 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, fire officials say the need for the community to step up to volunteer is needed now more than ever.
“If you don’t have enough volunteers to do that, that means we have to start paying people and that’s going to cost more money ,” said Warren.
Fire officials add that you do not need any experience to become a volunteer with your local fire department. They say they pay for all the training and equipment that you need, and all you have to do is visit your local fire department online or in person to let them know that you would like to sign up and volunteer.