More firefighter volunteers are needed in Lincoln County. Sheriff Kerry Lee made the statement at the county commissioners meeting this week.
He said the need seems to be greatest right now in the town of Panaca.
“It’s not just fires,” he said, “it’s EMS recruiting and training, too.”
Commission chair Paul Donohue called for the item to be put on the regular April 2 meeting agenda for further discussion.
Commissioner Nathan Katschke said the Lincoln County Coalition Group has also been looking into the subject “over the past few months and have set aside a committee to look into promoting the need for more volunteers.”
Lee thinks promoting by means of some kind of advertising would be “a benefit to everybody. It helps the county no matter in what community.”
County Emergency Management Coordinator Eric Holt said he is aware of studies on this very subject done in other parts of the country and there a number of key points to learn from and work on.
Donohue said he recalls a similar effort was made “a long time ago and we hit it pretty hard.”
An idea was put forth to invite some high school seniors, who have afternoons free, to get involved as firefighter volunteers who might be able to earn first responder certifications.
Lee, also the Panaca Fire Chief, said, “We really haven’t done a campaign to recruit, but we could through a class we could offer.”
“Any students who might be interested,” he noted, “would only be able to go through the preliminary levels of training.”
They could learn how to operate the machinery and hoses on the fire engines, but would not be allowed to do actual firefighting, like going into a structure fire. They would not be allowed to function outside the scope of their training.
While the idea is a good one, Lee noted one limiting factor is, “We do have to limit the number of volunteers because we don’t have enough certified fire fighters to manage them. If you have two regulars and seven probies that show up, we have to be able to be sure we can manage our volunteers and the functions they can perform.”
The need for adult volunteer firefighters is still great
He added, “If we can get some students interested who are maybe 16 right now and start training them, by the time they reach age 18, even if they go off to college, they are ready to help us before their college classes start. It could also lead to a good summer job with the Bureau of Land Management or the Forest Service. And later on, some may then want to go into the local regular Firefighter I and II programs.”