SPOKANE, Wash. - The number of volunteer firefighters in Spokane County is decreasing and that places more pressure on an increasingly small group of people.
According to the National Fire Protection Association, volunteers make up 70 percent of the nation’s firefighters. Since the 1980's, volunteer firefighters have decreased by at least 11 percent, even though emergency calls are increasing.
Lt. Brett Grella has been a Spokane County volunteer firefighter for 10 years. At minimum, volunteers pick up at least 2 shifts per month but Grella’s passion for firefighting drives him to work four to five 12-hour shifts per week.
“I can’t think of any other place I’d rather be,” Grella said.
During his career, Grella said he has seen a decline in volunteers.
“Family, peoples’ lives happen and, you know, volunteering requires a lot from people. You’re asking people to take away from their family,” Grella said. “I’ve got full-time jobs. They come out, they are doing it on their own time.”
Spokane County Fire District 4 Captain Megan Hill said Spokane needs a new younger crop of volunteer firefighters to replace the large group of dedicated volunteers who have served since the 1990's.
http://www.krem.com/news/local/low-volunteer-firefighter-numbers-impact-spokane-county/511163866 Hill said.
First, volunteers attend recruit school for about 18 months, which equips them with firefighting skills. This is followed by the EMT course, which makes for an 18 to 24 month time commitment.
Despite the commitment, Hill said there is often nothing more satisfying than volunteer firefighting.
“When it is, and you know it is, then there’s nothing else,” Hill said. “I mean, it’s an amazing feeling, you’re helping people, you’re getting that rush of adrenaline. A lot of people just love it and so if you’ve even thought about it, then at least look into it because it’s such a rewarding thing that you can add to your life.”
Those who are interested in volunteer firefighting can turn in their application to the Fire District office. Afterward, they will participate in an interview, learn the basics of firefighting and take EMT classes.