Fire departments see decrease in volunteer firefighters

BERRIEN SPRINGS, Mich. -- Some Michiana fire departments say they are losing manpower. In recent years community fire departments are seeing fewer and fewer volunteer firefighters.

As firefighter Russell Perry looked at pictures of former fighters on the walls of the department, he talked about the hundreds of firefighters he has seen come and go in the 23 years he has served at Benton Charter Township Fire Station.

Perry said 20 years ago there were 90 volunteer firefighters serving the community.

“Total is 12 to 14. We’ve dwindled down over the years,” Perry said.

Warren Township Fire Department in South Bend is seeing a loss as well.

With no more than four firefighters working during the busiest time of day, they said they are asking anyone in the community to volunteer.

“We asked anyone that was willing to volunteer come put an application in and we had four people,” Firefighter Joe Payne said.

They said successfully fighting fires is all about manpower. And the more fire fighters on scene, the quicker and more effectively they can act.

If a fire department doesn’t have enough manpower, they are forced to wait on another station to assist them.

“If you get no volunteers you’re waiting for the other station to show up before you can do anything,” Payne said.

That could mean the loss of a home, or the difference between life and death.

But as much as they need the help, firefighters do understand volunteering to fight fires is a major sacrifice.

“You’re asking people to leave their families for free. And possibly get injured or die, just to help the community,” said Payne.

If you are interested in applying to become a volunteer firefighter, stop by your local fire department and fill out an application. They are always looking for volunteers.

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