Staff shortages place strain on volunteer fire departments

WAFF's Jasmyn Cornell reporting
Published: Jan. 17, 2023 at 7:24 AM CST
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MADISON, Ala. (WAFF) - Fire departments across the country are struggling to retain and recruit firefighters. Many officials say this is putting a strain on the staff members they currently have.

According to Lieutenant James Filley, a firefighter with the Monrovia Volunteer Fire Department, volunteer fire departments have been struggling for about 20 years; however, he says this isn’t an issue for Monrovia.

They have a pretty good stream of people willing to volunteer, according to Filley. He says they have 9 to five workers, senior level management at local engineering companies, college students, and high school students in their junior program.

Filley says while they aren’t struggling to find volunteers, they are always looking for them. As Madison County continues to grow, their call volume is increasing.

”Our district is growing tremendously, especially with the additions of developments like Clift Farm. With the developments like that, our call volume is going up,” said Filley. Last year, we ran about 2,300 calls for service, which is almost six and a half calls a day, and so of our current staff, that does put a pretty big stretch on the people that we have. So, we’re always looking for more people. More people always lessens the load for us.”

WAFF's Jasmyn Cornell reporting

Filley says if they add ten additional people, who are committed and can run the calls, it would be extremely helpful. They’ve taken a progressive approach to recruitment, he said.

In 2021, the department launched a new website; it’s now more modern and provides detailed information. They’ve also been using social media as a tool for education and are out in the community hosting more programs and fundraisers.

If you are recruited, the department will provide excellent, extensive training that will prepare you for the job, said Filley.

“Once you do join, there is a Firefighter I class and a Firefighter II class that makes you become a certified firefighter. Those together are about 200 hours of schooling,” he said.

“If you’d like to become an EMT, which that class we pay for, it’s done through Calhoun primarily. That’s a three month or a one semester college class. Other than that, it’s all on-the-job training. So, we’ve got a great group of instructors here. We have a great leadership team and training department, and we’ll teach anybody whatever they need to know,” Filley added.

Filley says they try to host training sessions every Tuesday night for firefighters. As far as recruitment, Filley says they have plans to show the community the fire house to help them gain a better understanding of what they do and the great opportunities they provide.

If you’re interested in becoming a senior firefighter, you have to be 18 years old and must pass a background check and drug screening, according to Filley. The Monrovia Fire Department doesn’t require any previous experience or training.

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