WDAY: The News Leader

Published July 24, 2011, 10:48 AM

Volunteer Firefighters Association Declining in Members

Karlstad, Minn. (WDAZ TV) - In Minnesota, most men and women on the front lines fighting fires are volunteers. Many departments are having a tough time finding people.

By: David Schwab, WDAZ

Glen Quanbeck is one of the many volunteer fire fighters who were called to help after a storm hit Karlstad, Minnesota.

Glen Quanbeck – Volunteer Firefighter: "Just kind of a sense of responsibility for the safety of the community.”

Quanbeck has been a volunteer fire fighter for more then 12 years.

Quanbeck: "It gets taxing. It can be difficult working around because it really can cut into the pay check at times."

Lost income is just one of the reasons rural fire departments are having a tough time getting men and women to sign up.

Jeremy Folland - Karlstad Fire Chief: "It's getting hard because Kittson County has been declining in population. It's elderly the baby boomers they are becoming all the people here now instead of all the young ones."

The Minnesota Volunteer Fire Fighters Association there are many reasons for the declining members like less state funding. Also, many people work multiple jobs, or simply want to spend more time with family.

Jeremy Folland: "It does become a challenge year to year as some older retired guys move on."

Karlstad Fire Chief Jeremy Folland says they put in thousands of man-hours spent just putting out property and grass fires. That doesn't include time at local emergencies.

Folland: "We respond to vehicle accidents every year we are doing one or two search and rescues for people that are lost during hunting season."

Folland says he has been lucky to keep a full roster of volunteers and that helps when their department is called for mutual

aid to other communities which are having trouble finding new volunteers. Training standards are getting stricter. Volunteers now have to spend more time on training drills and gaining certifications.