More volunteer firefighters needed - KOTA Territory News

More volunteer firefighters needed

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It's a nationwide trend that's hit KOTA Territory.

Volunteer fire departments are fighting many hurdles to keep their operations running.

Many departments in KOTA Territory and across the nation are finding it increasingly difficult to attract and retain members; especially younger ones.

Ken Hawki with the Deadwood Volunteer Fire Department says volunteers especially younger ones, are hard to come by.

"It's not a Deadwood problem, or a Lead problem, or even a South Dakota problem. It's nationwide," said Hawki.

So like many departments across the country, most of Deadwood's volunteers are veterans.

"The majority of our people are pushing that 60 year mark. I've got at least 8-10 guys that are at that 60 mark or over, myself included," said Hawki.

With the dwindling number of volunteers, when a call comes in- the few members they do have could be miles away.

Hawki says that distance was evident last week when they responded to a structure fire.

"At first it was just me and another guy at the station, luckily we got one more guy to fill up the truck so we could take off," said Hawki.

And the same can be said for the Volunteer Fire Department in Sturgis.

They've got the equipment, they just need more volunteers.

"We're down to 39 members and it's just tough to recruit people," said Tom Trigg, the Sturgis Volunteer Fire Department Chief.

Trigg says the first year of volunteering requires close to 200 hours of training.

And that alone scares potential volunteers away.

"It's a big commitment and people have a busy life and it's just hard to get people to commit. We'll get 4 or 5 people and maybe 1 or 2 will find out it's for them, and it's not for everybody," said Trigg.

As the trend continues, both Hawki and Trigg say volunteer fire departments could soon be a thing of the past.

"We're going to have to probably start compensating people. Everybody's time is valuable," said Trigg.

While both the Sturgis and Deadwood Volunteer Fire Departments need more volunteers; Hawki says those at the Deadwood Fire Department don't necessarily have to fight fires.

There are other duties around the station they could help out with, such as answering phones and clerical work.

 

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