Shortage in volunteer firefighters hits Mid-Michigan - WNEM TV 5

Shortage in volunteer firefighters hits Mid-Michigan

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Volunteer firefighters are becoming a scarce commodity across the nation. It’s an issue that’s been 30 years in the making.

A new study reveals the number of volunteer firefighters has fallen 12 percent over the last three decades.

The majority of the departments are struggling to recruit and retain them, that’s the case in Mid-Michigan as well.

“All of these volunteer organizations depend on people and when they don’t have the people, the work suffers,” said Chief Bob Cairnduff from the Fenton Fire Department.

Chief Cairnduff is feeling the firefighter crunch.

He said handling too many emergencies with not enough people is putting safety at risk.

“We're saying increase response time,” Cairnduff said. “It’s harder for us to get a truck out the door quickly because we have less people coming in when we have a call.”

Over the past decade enrollment and retention of volunteer firefighters has steadily declined according to Cairnduff.

He said this is something his department is struggling with as well as many other cities across the country, leaving fire rescue operations to look at other solutions.

“Whether it be mergers, other agencies, or paid staffing and some supplemental staffing during the daytime because that’s when many local departments are hurting for staffing," Cairnduff said.

Cairnduff said that at the Fenton Fire Department they’re down five to six volunteer firefighters.

Cairnduff believes the problem is a societal one. He believes it relates to people working daytime hours, people moving more often, and less commitment to the fire department.

He encourages anyone seriously interested to check in with their local department.

“I would say go check with your local fire department most of them would love to tell you their department works,” Cairnduff said. “I can tell you about the time commitment it takes, so you understand that upfront, so they don’t waste your time and you don’t waste theirs.”

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