Door County fire departments work together to respond as they see volunteerism decline

Published: Apr. 30, 2021 at 10:17 PM CDT
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DOOR COUNTY, Wis. (WBAY) - A nation-wide shortage of volunteer firefighters has departments in Door County leaning on each other for a little more for help.

“It’s nearing crisis mode speaking generically for volunteer fire departments,” said Chris Hecht, Fire Chief for the Sister Bay-Liberty Grove Fire Department.

The department has about 65 volunteer firefighters but could always use more.

“In a perfect world we would like to have 75 or more, and we’d like to have them all show up all the time, but the reality is we all have jobs, we all have lives, we all have families,” said Chief Hecht.

It’s an uphill battle their neighbors in Ephraim are also facing.

“In a perfect world I would love to have at least 40 people on staff,” said Ephraim Fire Chief, Justin MacDonald. “Our department is fairly fortunate. Recently we gained 2 people who have graduated from firefighting school this past weekend bringing our number up to 28 firefighters within the department.”

Volunteer firefighters make up about 67 percent of all firefighters in the United States.

A recent report by the National Volunteer Fire Council points to leadership issues and time constraints as major factors in people leaving departments.

With summer upon us, departments in Door County are facing another issue.

“For us, it’s become difficult. Many of our volunteers work in the service industry or are tradesmen, so especially this time of year a lot of the tradesmen get very busy as people start to open up their summer homes. So, we see our responses start to decline a little bit,” said Chief Hecht.

That’s why all departments are working together to make sure service is not disrupted in an emergency.

“Many of the members actually serve on multiple departments which we don’t have a problem with because typically we’re all going to the same fire,” said Chief MacDonald.

Both fire chiefs encourage anyone interested in serving their community as a firefighter to reach out to their local department.

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