There haven't been any volunteers to answer calls for help in a fire and rescue district near Lincoln three times this year, and it could happen again

Share story

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — There haven’t been any volunteers to answer calls for help in a fire and rescue district near Lincoln three times this year, and it could happen again.

The Southwest Fire and Rescue needs at least 10 more volunteers to cover the district serving more than 75 square miles (194 square kilometers) west and southwest of Lincoln, the Lincoln Journal Star reported.

Assistant Chief Adam Powers said it’s the first time in his 18 years working for Southwest that the station has let calls go unanswered, requiring a neighboring squad to respond. The district has seen its number of volunteer and EMTs drop almost by half to 21 since Powers joined, he said.

Volunteers are retiring or aging out while fewer new members are replacing them, Powers said. The district’s land area has also seen its population increase from 4,200 in 2000 to more than 4,500 this year.

“The constituents in our district get a hell of a deal for free. We hang our hat on that,” Powers said. “But if we can’t get people to volunteer, we would have to request a raise in our tax levy to fund someone being around the station during the day to take those calls.”

Losing volunteers is a common issue for many of the nearly 375 volunteer departments in Nebraska, said Bill Lundy, secretary-treasurer of the Nebraska State Volunteer Firefighters Association.

“But a lot of people don’t realize that in the state of Nebraska, if you call 911 for medical or fire, 80 percent of those (calls) are being responded to by volunteer fire departments,” Lundy said.

Southwest Fire and Rescue posted an online survey last week seeking input from its patrons and sharing information about operating a volunteer squad over such a large area. The district plans to hold several town hall meetings to share survey results and solicit feedback in September.

___

Information from: Lincoln Journal Star, http://www.journalstar.com