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As Firefighters Move To Combat Wildfires, Local Volunteer Numbers Remain Low

Willamette National Forest

While firefighters continue to try to thwart growing wildfires around the state, the manpower required to do so can leave local stations dry. 

When wildfires begin volunteer firefighters often leave their stations for paid positions on the front lines. With recruitment numbers dwindling, this leaves local fire stations between a rock and a hot place.

Jim Kusz is with North Lincoln Fire and Rescue:

“Volunteerism is down, the need for volunteers has increased, call volumes have increased. So to have really well-trained people to help out communities is at a critical point I would say at this time.”

Volunteers make up about 70 percent of fire departments nationally. Kusz says a typical recruiting class can look like 16-18 people, but recent classes are as low as two.

To help boost recruitment fire districts across the state are offering incentives.

Kusz: “We’re providing the training for free, we’re providing all the equipment. And then providing them with some kind of stipend program if a district has one.”

Lincoln and Tillamook counties are beginning a fire academy for new volunteers on October 2 at the Newport Fire Department.