EAST HELENA – There are concerns across the state over the lack of volunteer firefighters and what that means for departments trying to keep their communities safe.
Troy Maness, Fire Chief for the East Helena Volunteer Fire Department, says the department currently has 14 volunteer firefighters on their roster and can have up to 28. He said it has been over 20 years since they've had over 25 or more volunteer firefighters.
He also said they're seeing an increase in response times. What use to take 3-4 minutes from the time of the call to when they arrived on scene, is now taking 6-12 minutes. With many of them having full time jobs, it makes it hard to step away and go out on a call.
“There are days when we don’t have anybody available. That gives you just a really bad feeling in your gut, knowing that there is nobody available to respond to those types of calls,” said Maness.
Chief Maness says there use to be a waiting list of people wanting to get onto the department and now they are struggling to get people into the department. He says there are a lot of different items that can affect people's ability to volunteer, which leads to the decrease in volunteers.
If you are interested in becoming a volunteer firefighter Chief Maness says to seek out your local stations and find out what their process is for getting onto the department. If you are in East Helena, you can stop by the City Hall and pick up an application.