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Culver fire chief calling for more volunteers

CULVER, Ind. - The Culver and Union Township Fire Department is calling for new volunteers after three resigned since the start of the year.

The volunteer department serves the entirety of Union Township, which comprises about 40 miles and more than 3,000 people.

Fire Chief Terry Wakefield says their situation is not unique—volunteer departments across the country are facing shortages.

The chief says he doesn’t think there’s one department in Marshall County that is fully-staffed—and they almost all strictly rely on volunteers.

He’s hoping that if he keeps speaking up, they’ll start to see more people suiting up in Culver.

The signature wailing siren suggests help is on the way, but the Culver and Union Township Fire Department could use some help of its own.

“I believe there was 18 when I first started [about 30 years ago]. Made it up to 21 or 22 at a time, and now we’re at the point where I believe we’re at 16,” said Chief Terry Wakefield.

Ideally, he’d like to see a force of 21 to 25 volunteers.

Three firefighters handed in their letters of resignation in the past six months—two because they moved—and one—because of old age.

“It makes the ones that are here work harder. We have to when we go to a scene, you’re only good for so many minutes of work, then you’re done. You have to have time off…You can’t work yourself that hard, so I just think that’s the biggest issue,” said the chief.

“It’s tough sometimes, especially during the day. I’m one of the lucky guys that works here in town, so I can show up to calls most of the time, but we’ve had a few where we’ve had to call for backup, but it’s just a thing we do, and we work around it, and we get it done,” said one of the department’s newest volunteers, Kyle Vandeputte.

But Chief Wakefield says he thinks most other 20-year-olds are put off by the time they have to volunteer—especially to train—which can take longer than a year.

The chief says this void of volunteers should concern the entire community.

“As a volunteer, no one says everybody’s going to be in town, so if it’s your house or whatever, wouldn’t you want to increase your odds of having more chances of people?” said Chief Wakefield.

Plus, he says maintaining a volunteer department is saving taxpayers big bucks.

“If they had to have a full time fire department, paid men to be on call 24-7, people here would go up in arms, because insurance rates would go up, and the tax rate would go up to help pay for that,” he said.

Money aside, the chief just wants to make sure their siren never stops sounding.

Chief Wakefield says one of the ways they’re hoping to recruit more people is by changing their by-laws to extend the age limit below 21.

He says their goal is always for a truck to leave the garage with five people in it—three firefighters, an officer, and an operator.

For more information on how to join the department, you can call City Hall at this number: 574-842-3140.

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