ANDERSON COUNTY, Ky. (LEX 18)– It’s not a very comforting thought considering how many Kentuckians rely on volunteer fire departments.
The number of recruits is not keeping up with the demand.
The problem doesn’t only impact how quickly they respond to emergencies, but whether they can even respond at all.
When a firefighter comes to the rescue chances, are they’re doing it for free and on their own time.
“By far, more than 90 percent are volunteers covering six stations.”
It’s true in Anderson County and across much of the nation.
Data shows that about 70 percent of firefighters are volunteers, but that number has been dropping in the past few years.
“We have some areas that are as far as like 18 miles from the county seat of Lawrenceburg that can be very shorthanded, especially during the day.”
They are always in need of more firefighters, but Battalion Chief Marty Terry says the number one thing he hears from people is that they don’t have enough time.
“Then when they call 911, they hope that somebody who had time to volunteer shows up.”
150 hours of training are required and it’s free.
“Anderson County has training on Tuesday and Thursday nights, occasionally on Saturdays, there’s state fire schools, there’s no lack of training opportunities in Kentucky if somebody wants to be trained.”
The only financial incentive is a few dollars for every run, but as a volunteer battalion chief himself, Terry knows that the real reward is that he gets to help his neighbors.
“It’s very common, we’ll say, ‘hey you remember that run out at so and so, well there’s that lady right there’ and we’ll see them a year or two later and they’re living their life and happy and you think, you know, you might have had a small part to do with that.”
Many paid departments are also still in need of volunteers, so if you’re interested reach out to your local firefighters and see how you can help.