CHELAN–Chelan County Fire Protection District 7 will be hosting volunteer training this coming February and is actively seeking dedicated individuals.
Currently, there are 31 active volunteer firefighters, and roughly 90% of these individuals provide support services during an active fire. This means they are offering support from outside of a building, not actually entering into and fighting a structural fire.
“We don’t have enough volunteers to staff typical structure fires. Not many places do,” Assistant Fire Chief Shawn Sherman said, “The way we look at it is any numbers we can get, we’re happy with.”
He also mentioned the importance of being able to predict the overall cost for training. To outfit and train one volunteer it costs roughly $10,000.
That said, there is turnover of volunteers. Sherman cites three main reasons for this. He has seen volunteers move out of town because they can no longer afford to live here, and people who physically age out of firefighting and choose to retire. Additionally, there are people who may struggle to balance family commitments and job obligations, as many occupations don’t support volunteer activities.
Sherman started his career in fire service as a volunteer. He would leave high school classes to go on fires, or, if at a job, would leave mid-shift to respond or fight fire.
“Most businesses don’t support that anymore,” he explained. “The school system definitely doesn’t support that anymore. So, times have changed.”
Once volunteers make it through the academy, their commitment is every Tuesday except holidays and special events. Specialized training is also offered occasionally throughout the year. Fire academy takes place every Tuesday and Saturday from Feb. 6 until around mid-April. The intensity of the academy schedule Sherman believes to be a reason for having difficulty recruiting.
He invites those who are dedicated to consider volunteering.
“The experience of being a firefighter is definitely a fulfilling one, if you can stick to the commitment. It’s not easy…we understand that life changes for people,” Sherman said. “What we don’t want to do is recruit people that are on unsure footing because we invest a lot of time and a lot of money in people…so if someone is interested in doing this, take an honest look at your own life. Do you have time for this commitment, and, if you do, we want you.”
Katie Lindert: 509-731-3211 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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