On Call: Shelby Co. Volunteer Fire Services Face Volunteer Shortage | News
If you are in the county and suddenly there is a fire, who do you call?
Probably one of eight Shelby County Volunteer Fire Departments.
Volunteer services are located in Waldron, Morristown, Marietta, St. Paul, Flat Rock, Fountaintown, Fairland and Moral Township.
In addition to the county’s eight departments, there are two outside the county – Manilla and Needham – that are able to answer calls from Shelby County.
Over the next several weeks, TSN will be highlighting each department.
The heads of each department meet once every two months under the name of the Shelby County Volunteer Fire Association, according to SCVFA president and Moral Township Fire Chief Aaron Lathrop.
“Only the leaders get together and discuss all the business we have that relates to each other,” he said. “There are a number of things that we do between departments, like reviewing the grants if we are doing something county-wide.”
Lathrop said each volunteer service averages about 20 firefighters.
“Everyone in the departments works there on a voluntary basis,” he said. “The way we operate, we all have pagers or some notification system, and when a call comes in, people leave wherever they are, go to the station, get in a truck and answer the call. call. “
Some of these firefighters are considered “active” which means that they are always available to answer a call. Lathrop said about half of the firefighters on the list can be considered active.
But even with 10 active members, sometimes stations don’t always have firefighters to answer a call because they are at work or out of town.
“The problem we have is that the volunteer fire department of old was made up of farmers and people who worked locally,” Lathrop said. “Right now the problem is just having people around. Nobody really works where they live – we don’t have the farmers jumping out of the field to answer a call.
When this happens, when there are no local volunteers to answer the call, departments contact each other for help.
“We have a mutual aid agreement where we respond to each other,” Lathrop said. “Fountaintown, Fairland and others close to us in Moral Township, we can reach out to a couple of other departments just to help us find the people we need to complete the missions. “
Lathrop says they’re lucky to have three volunteers who answer a call at certain times of the day. It is a national problem.
“You make a call and you could be out for three hours easily,” he said. “We definitely have a volunteer shortage, and with the volunteers we have, it’s a big time commitment that people are no longer able to make. “
But don’t worry, Shelby County Volunteer Services always have reliable firefighters.
“We have a lot of really good guys, active members who can handle a lot of things and are able to do what we do,” said Lathrop.
Lathrop said they are battling the shortage by always accepting volunteers.
“You come and sign up, services train you and you get your pager, and you’re on your way,” he said.
The process of forming a volunteer fire department can be a little different from that of a typical fire station.
“We are getting some basic fire and medical certifications,” he said. “Shelbyville would require more advanced certification – it’s a state requirement. For volunteer services, it depends on what they determine.
And the Blue River Career Center also offers a fire certification program for high school students.
“We’re lucky enough to have a program right now at the Blue River Career Center open to schools across the county where they have a firefighter certification program,” he said. “Many of these students will join volunteer services and use them as a stepping stone to get into the fire department. “
Anyone interested in becoming a volunteer firefighter can contact their local volunteer fire department.