BALDWIN COUNTY, Ala. (WKRG) – Belforest Volunteer Fire Department is a busy one, responding day and night to calls that are constantly coming in and those numbers keep going up.
“A lot of what we run right now are medical calls. Unfortunately, a lot of what we run are COVID-positive calls,” said Chief Teresa Mitchell.
Last year around this time Chief Mitchell had 28 volunteer firefighters. But this week she’s down to just 18 in Belforest.
“You have volunteers that have families that don’t want to expose themselves and their families to the COVID virus,” she said.
The problem is hitting Baldwin County hard, considering most communities here rely on volunteer fire departments for emergency services.
In the Pine Grove community south of Bay Minette there are only 8 active firefighters, the lowest number of members they’ve ever had.
Pine Grove Volunteer Fire Department posted an urgent request to Facebook Tuesday night asking for help.
“We currently have 8 active firefighters, and 4 inactive board members and administrative personnel, where as 10 years ago we had over 34 members. It is pertinent that we are able to gain some more members,” the message read in part. “We try to provide the best possible fire and medical services to the community possible with keeping up to date and new equipment, quality training, and of course response to every call. But with the declining interest in the volunteer fire service it is getting hard to keep up with the demand,” the post continued.
Chief Mitchell says her department is actively recruiting, but believes it will take time to get the department fully-staffed, blaming a lot of the issues on the pandemic.
“We also had some families that had to move out of the area due to not having work here. They had to go look for work elsewhere,” she added.
Both departments are asking interested firefighters to reach out. Chief Mitchell says she can fill other positions within the department aside from firefighters, too.