BLOUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WIAT) — Volunteer fire departments are crucial for small-town communities. But with a lack of interest among younger generations, departments are feeling the heat.
The Blountsville Fire Department has around 25 volunteers on its roster. But on any given call, sometimes only three to seven volunteers show up causing a strain on the department as they tackle an increase in call volume.
Just in 2020, the Blountsville Fire Department had over 800 calls.
“It can get hectic sometimes. You bounce from call to call and you might only get an hour of sleep a day,” said Josh Cool, a volunteer firefighter on the Blountsville Department.
Many of the volunteers at the department juggle their time at the station and an outside career.
“I’m working a full-time job working going back and forth so with the number of runs we make and just everything we’re doing here it can be kind of stressful, but the guys here make it a lot easier we have good fellowship and good guys,” said Austin Chester, another volunteer firefighter on the department.
To help elevate some of the workload the department is zeroing in on recruiting new members.
“But we’re finding it harder and hard to get younger people to be involved so we have turned to social media to advertise and to try and get recruits and try to get volunteers,” said Blountsville Fire Chief Sam Johnson.
“I wear a helmet cam in the fire, so people get to see what it’s like to fight fire well minus the heat,” said Chester.
But there are some roadblocks the department is running into.
“People have to pay for their own training which is college or EMT course and that gets very expensive, and people don’t have that kind of money like I said a lot of them are working two jobs. But here in Blountsville were trying to combat that we are trying to pay for the course if we can its depends on our budget and how it comes out,” said Chief Johnson.
“Would love to see more volunteers more people coming down here riding the trucks with us and getting to start something maybe a lifelong career,” said Chester.
Johnson also hopes in the future to have fire districts throughout the county where full-time employees are the stations 24/7 keeping up with the demand in calls.