Rural fire chiefs talk about the need for volunteers

Rural fire departments needing volunteers
Published: Dec. 31, 2020 at 5:10 AM CST
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LINCOLN, Neb. (KOLN) - Volunteer firefighters are slowly getting harder to come by.

Those who serves rural fire departments now drop everything to respond to an emergency call. It’s quite the dedication for something that doesn’t pay a single cent in return.

Yet the reward is more than worth it: service to your community; running calls and helping people, and potentially saving lives.

The need for these kinds of people is dire.

“All departments are in need of volunteers,” says Waverly Fire Chief Jared Rains.

“Every fire district that I know can always use more volunteers,” says Bennet Fire Chief Tim Norris.

“This department is privileged to be able to have as many volunteers as we do,” says Southeast Fire Chief John Wiese. ““It used to be if you belonged to a fire department, it was kind of a status deal. Now there’s just not people there to volunteer and there’s so much other activities going on throughout the communities that they have to pick and choose what they want to do.”

Rural departments are still gathering volunteers over time, though.

“We’ve been lucky here lately that we’ve been doing some advertising and we’re getting some people in, but there’s always a shortage and COVID didn’t help anything because now you have to deal with that aspect and who wants to potentially put yourself at risk or your family at risk to do this job,” Chief Rains said.

“That is going to continue to be the challenge -- getting young people, young married people, to give it the time. To sacrifice something,” Chief Norris said. “That’s what I guess what we’re really saying is: if you want to be on the fire department, it’s a sacrifice. You’ve gotta be willing to jump when the pager calls, whatever you’re in the middle of, and come help somebody.”

So, what if you want to become a volunteer firefighter?

“If people are wondering where they fall, there’s Facebook pages. Most every fire department in Lancaster County has some type of Facebook page that you can get on,” said Chief Rains.

“We do a recruit class about once every two years or so, depending on where our numbers are,” said Chief Wiese.

Even if you live in Lincoln, you can still volunteer for a rural fire department.

“There’s probably two or three that live in our district. Everybody else lives in the City of Lincoln,” Chief Wiese said.

“All else fails, if you live in Lincoln and the only number you can get is my number, give us a call -- we’ll let you know who you’re close to,” Chief Rains said.

“It doesn’t matter what your background is -- we will train you,” said Chief Norris. “We’ll teach you. We won’t put you in harms way. I can guarantee you that.”

In the end, Chief Wiese has one simple hope for Lancaster County residents.

“I’d just like to see everybody help their firemen and their fire departments in their community by volunteering or supporting them somehow or another. It’s a need. It really is a need.”

If you’d like to volunteer, you can check out the following departments, some of which are looking for new volunteers:

Malcolm, Raymond, Waverly, Eagle, Bennet, Firth, Hallam, Hickman, Southeast, Southwest, & Pleasant Dale.

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