Officials say the number of volunteers available for calls is decreasing, for a variety of reasons. And they’re trying some new ways of recruiting.
If you don’t mind working in dangerous conditions, at all hours of the day — for free — then your local fire department is looking for you.
Volunteers are the backbone of the fire service system in Delaware. Only the city of Wilmington has paid firefighters.
So keeping the number of volunteers at an adequate level is a constant challenge.
“I don’t think it’s gotten to the critical level,” said Kevin Wilson, President of the Delaware Volunteer Firefighter’s Association. “We’ve been doing recruitment and retention for the 35 years that I’ve been in the fire service. We have to continually get people in there to replace the folks that are going out.”
Wilson says the total number of volunteers has remained relatively stable. But the number of volunteers that are available to respond to calls is decreasing, for a variety of reasons. He says there is an ever-increasing time commitment to training and fundraising and a rising amount of calls.
It’s gotten to the point, Wilson says, that “when the siren blows, you never know how many folks you’re going to get.”
One of the biggest issues, he says, is that people these days have busier lifestyles.
“If we have an alarm at 3 o’clock in the morning a department might have 30 people show up,” Wilson said. “But at 3 o’clock in the afternoon they might have five or 10 because of work schedules, school schedules, family, things of that nature.”
One thing the association is doing differently this year to attract volunteers is airing promotions at movie theaters. They’re also running TV and radio spots, and reaching out to the community through their individual companies.