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Volunteer Firefighter Numbers in Decline

Boalsburg Fire Chief Van Winter tells me his Father was a Firefighter and that — years ago — you would follow in your Father’s footsteps. Chief Van Winter saying: “But now, in the days with two-income families, and children, commitment and time is just not there. So, you don’t have that — the dynamics of how a family life is from 40 years ago till now is completely changed.” He says the number of Boalsburg Volunteers has remained stagnant — but that the number of fires has tripled.

Much of the money for these Volunteer Fire Departments comes from Fundraising, but Chief Van Winter says: “Hoagie sales and boot drives and gun raffles don’t cut it.”

Winter tells me that Basic Training takes roughly 200 hours — another time commitment. And then there’s another issue — age. Chief Van Winter saying: “The average age of a firefighter — volunteer firefighter — is in their forties.”

One way these Fire Departments have found young Volunteers in the past is at High Schools. But Winter says that’s easier said than done. Chief Van Winter saying: “High Schoolers are tough because child labor laws prohibit anyone 14, 15, 16, 17 years of age to do about anything. They don’t have the time to dedicate for this stuff. They have so much going on in their life.”

But Winter says the biggest benefit of Volunteering is serving your community.

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