The need for volunteer firefighters is heating up

By Lauren Payne - bio | email feedback

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - "Due to the economy like it is, changes over the years, people working two jobs,  they have children," said Philadelphia Fire Department volunteer, Jesse Montgomery.

"Once they show up it's harder to keep them and retain them active in the department because life goes on and things change in life," said Montgomery.

He says these days many people just can't afford to donate their time, when they need to be working, and it's demanding both on schedules and their bodies.

"Us old dogs, the older firefighters, the seasoned firefighters we are getting older," said Montgomery.

For a variety of reasons, he says it's tougher to get younger people.

"Eventually someone's going to have to step up to the plate," said Montgomery.

"It is a good opportunity for a young person to be able to get some exposure and find out is this something they want to make a career of," said Jonesboro Fire Department Assistant Chief Kevin Miller.

Miller says volunteer departments are great training and recruiting grounds.  He adds they also offer valuable resources when battling unique incidents.

"Most recently it has been the rash of grass fires due to the dry weather.   They are outfitted very well to be able to handle the wild land firefighting," said Miller.

"It's in my blood," said Montgomery.

Jesse Montgomery says in Region 8 and statewide the older volunteers are still fighting fires and still giving  it their all, but he says there needs to be more volunteers standing with them.

"Somebody will always be here, it may not be as many, but somebody will always be here," said Montgomery.

Montgomery says these days it's quite common for volunteer departments to call other departments to assist them in fire calls.  Where as in the past he says  the volunteer departments could handle response calls from their areas. He says they're so shorthanded during certain times of the day, they need the extra personnel or the extra equipment.

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