Fighting Fires in Small Towns With an Even Smaller Staff
many towns often have volunteers and they're unpaid
MAPLETON, N.D. — Every town needs someone to put out fires.
But when it comes to small towns, they don’t always have the firefighters they need.
When firefighters get an emergency call in a larger town like Fargo, it takes seconds before they get dressed at the fire station and start driving to a scene.
But when it comes to small towns, it’s a much different scenario.
“When we get the page, we all report back to our fire station, so people come from wherever they are. Maybe grocery shopping, at work,” said Kayla Cross, fire chief at the Mapleton Fire Department.
That’s the way volunteer fire departments work. None of the people are paid and many of them tend to be short staffed.
“Our volunteers certainly come and go. People realize that it’s a lot of work to be a volunteer firefighter. Being on a fire department isn’t just about firefighting. It takes a lot to run the department,” Cross said.
Which is why it’s not just firefighters that the departments need. It’s all the help behind the scenes as well.
“In addition to training, we also need people to grant writing, to change the oil on the trucks, to meet with the kids during fire prevention week, so it’s a huge time commitment,” Cross said.
Training is the most time consuming part of it all.
“They’re away from their families at that time. Sometimes the training is done in-house,” Cross said. “Sometimes we travel across the state to do statewide training or different regional training.”
But some say it’s a small price for a vital part of communities everywhere.
“With any emergency, you need people to respond and you never know if that individual is going to be somebody that we care about or if it could even be ourselves. So in order for that to happen, we need people to fill those shoes,” Cross said.
Which only happens from the average Joe who dedicates their free time as a volunteer.
Anyone who would like to be a volunteer can submit their request with the North Dakota Firefighter’s Association or they can contact their local fire department.