Fire departments face volunteer shortage

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CLINTON, Ill. (WAND) — Rural communities rely on volunteers to save lives in times of crisis, but those volunteers may need some saving of their own.

Staffing issues are plaguing small volunteer fire departments.

DeWitt County EMS operations manager Mark McCandless has seen the number of volunteers dwindle firsthand.

“Back in the day, it was easy to get volunteers to help,” McCandless said. “[Now], it’s just difficult.”

“We [don’t] have very many EMTs and first responders so we really depend upon another department,” said Cerro Gordo firefighter Siegel Grimes.

The Cerro Gordo department is completely composed of volunteers. That’s why Grimes and a few of his fellow firefighters decided to brush up on their first responder training.

Clinton Fire Chief Jeff Hoke says these emergency medical responder classes help departments keep up on live-saving skills while making them more self-sufficient.

“Usually, we’re first to arrive on scene, so anything we can do to help out the EMS crew is a huge asset to them,” Hoke said.

Becoming a volunteer firefighter or first responder doesn't require any previous experience, but recruits receive extensive training. The DeWitt County EMR class crams 52 hours of training into about a month and a half.

But for Grimes, the payoff of providing better service to his community is well worth it.

“We just try to help each other out in the town,” he said. “That’s the way I was raised, to help out your neighbor.”

If you would like to sign up to be a volunteer firefighter or first responder, just contact your local volunteer department to learn more.

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