Volunteer Fire Departments like Creola see challenges in retention

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CREOLA, Ala. (WKRG) — Volunteer fire departments locally and around the country are seeing a shortage of people signing up. At the Creola Volunteer Fire Department, cubbies are full of gear, but there’s always room for more.

“At the end of the day you have a special satisfaction helping your neighbor in a time of need,” said Chief Charles Moye. The chief says they have 19 firefighters, not their lowest number but he’d like to have double that. He says the major problem with retention is that most people don’t have time for this kind of volunteer work.

“Once you join there are a lot of expectations in the first year just to get 40 hours of training for the basic medical and firefighter training, and for everything from driving a truck to being an officer those are more classes and more classes,” said Moye. The chief says he’s less worried about response time and more concerned about how effective firefighters are when they get there.

“It takes manpower it takes boots on the ground to be effective so we have to call for help early if we don’t have enough from our own department,” said Moye. “So that mutual aid system really is vital for us to be successful in taking care of those structure fires.”

In addition to the large time commitment, a nationwide study released last summer from the National Volunteer Fire Council says former volunteers cited a culture in some firehouses that were unwelcoming and slow to change as reasons for leaving. Whatever the reason, positions are open.

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