Rural Fire Departments in Need of Young Volunteers

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Small communities including Osceola and Bradshaw depend on volunteer fire departments in times of emergency. But those fire departments are constantly in search of help. They need more young firefighters.

In Siebert's Custom Paint & Body Shop in Bradshaw you can find Brian Wolfe working on a 1973 Chevy Nova. But when he's not at work, he's putting out fires as the Captain of the Bradshaw Volunteer Fire Department. He says as a young and able member, he feels a sense of responsibility.

"I'm one of the younger ones. I'm 31-years-old and we have some up in the 60s too, so...but the younger ones tend to have little bit more energy," said Wolfe.

The Fire Chief of the Osceola volunteer department completely agrees.

"There's nothing better than a young volunteer. They're able to go in and do interior attacks and burns and things like that. The younger guys are able to take that a lot better than us older guys," said Toby Watts.

Volunteer fire departments across central Nebraska say they are in need of more young firefighters. But that's not all that's needed. The shrinking volunteer pool puts strains on rural ambulance services too.

Carlie Davidson, the Osceola ambulance manager said, "During the day, you know, if we have a major accident, we're normally always calling one of our neighboring towns to assist because we are just that short staffed. And they in those local towns are also short staffed, so we respond to help them as well."

Wolfe encourages those who are interested to get involved. He says his seven years have been more than worth it.

"Lots of times you know, they say they don't realize it until something happens to them and they need the help and then they're so thankful that we're there to help them. It kinda makes you feel good" said Wolfe.

Chief Watts says programs including STRIVE, the State Tuition Reimbursement as Incentive for Volunteer Emergency Responders are helpful. After two years of service, volunteer firefighters can receive up to 4,400 dollars in tuition reimbursement for themselves or an immediate family member.