Local News

North Carolina facing shortage of volunteer firefighters

Posted February 11, 2019 5:31 a.m. EST
Updated February 11, 2019 10:03 a.m. EST

— Fighting fires in North Carolina is becoming increasingly harder as the state faces a dire shortage of volunteer firefighters.

Leaders are working to recruit volunteers to staff stations across the Triangle, even creating a video and public service announcement to help get the word out.

The PSA advertises that "being part of a volunteer fire department is making North Carolina stronger in every sense of the word," and was created thanks to a $1 million federal grant awarded to the North Carolina Association of Fire Chiefs (NCAFC) to help recruit and keep volunteer firefighters.

According to FEMA, 72 percent of North Carolina firefighters are volunteers, and about 90 percent of fire departments in the state are all or mostly volunteer. Since 2016, departments here have lost an average of 600 firefighters a year.

North Carolina facing shortage of volunteer firefighters

Fire chiefs in Wake County say fewer volunteers creates the need for them to call other departments outside the district to assist in calls. That puts a strain on the departments and leaves fewer firefighters to respond if a fire breaks out elsewhere.

"So if you have a fire in one district you may get four different departments that come," said Chief Lee Price from the Wake-New Hope Fire Department. "Whereas 10-15 years ago, maybe two departments came because they had more volunteers that could handle that call."

Fire officials say there's a shortage of firefighters across the board, but it's even harder to get volunteers because they're working a tough job without any pay.

North Carolina facing shortage of volunteer firefighters

Leaders say they're looking for non-traditional candidates regardless of gender, race, age or skill set.

”If you have a heart that wants to volunteer, we need you and your community needs you," said Tracy Mosley, the NCAFC Grant Manager. “You can spend as much time as you want or as little time as you want. If you have a heart that wants to volunteer, we have a place for you and we’ll work with you.”

"You get to do things and experience things that no one else does," said Price. "There’s a sense of brotherhood, you get to meet people, it’s a family.”

You can learn more about how to become a volunteer firefighter online.

To discover ways that you or your organization can help the campaign to recruit volunteer firefighters, visit www.weneedfirefighters.org or text firefighter to 88799 to be kept up to date about the program.