Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Volunteer firefighters' ranks drop 12% in 5 years

The decline in the number of volunteer firefighters, who provide most of the fire protection in rural areas, is continuing. Nationally, their ranks declined 12 percent from 2005 to 2010, Scott Mullen, president of the Oregon Volunteer Firefighters Association, told Chuck Anderson of The Oregoinian in Portland, who writes, "Because rural residents depend on volunteers, fire officials throughout Oregon are struggling as the ranks age and spots go unfilled with younger recruits."

"Old-timers still volunteer," Mullen told Anderson. "The time demands and requirements for training weren't as great when they started. Young people are having a tougher time finding the time that needs to be put in." Anderson explains, "The era has long passed when all a recruit needed was to know how to find the nozzle end of a fire hose and aim it at the flames. Today the state's training requirements are no easier for volunteers than for career firefighters." (Oregonian photo by Bemjamin Brink: Ron Maruska, a volunteer firefighter for three years, at a recent training session.)

Other reasons: fewer people willing and able to do the physical labor involved in firefighting; more two-income households with children in school; and, as we reported in 2009, more rural residents driving longer distances to and from work, making them less available. (Read more)

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