Residents on waiting lists to join fire departments in southwest North DakotaPeople are on waiting lists to volunteer as firefighters for departments across southwest North Dakota.
People are on waiting lists to volunteer as firefighters for departments across southwest North Dakota.
“It seems like when we think it’s going to go away more people sign up,” said Lyle Frieze, Mott Fire District chief. “Younger people move to town and they want to get on.”
The department has a full roster of 28 firefighters.
“It’s a good organization to belong to,” Frieze said.
Though the Belfield Fire Department was down to eight firefighters about 10 years ago, they too have a full roster of 22, said Chief Kevin Huschka.
“Some younger people moved into town and a new fire hall and a new fire truck — it all encourages them to join,” he said.
Alan Pavlicek, chief of the Dunn County Fire Hall, said the West Dunn Fire District has had a waiting list for several years.
“A lot are just local guys that just want to be on the department and want to be there to help,” Pavlicek said. “If the tables were turned we would hope there would be somebody out there wanting to come to our place and take care of a fire or rescue if we were in an accident. We just have a good moral, I guess you could say.”
He said those who volunteer have to be willing to train and go to fires and accidents.
“You get the adrenalin rush and … when the job’s all done and you’re back at the hall and everybody comes home safe, it’s just a great satisfaction,” he said. “The key part is everybody coming home — that’s what we really stress.”
However, not every department is as fortunate to have so many volunteers.
“It’s harder to get young guys that will stay around and join the department,” said Dan Buchholz, Beach and Central Rural Fire Prevention District chief. “They all take off and go to college and find jobs somewhere else. They don’t come back so our median age keeps creeping up on us and it’s hard to find young guys to join.”
He said there was a waiting list to join in the 1980s, but the department is down to 23 firefighters.
“We have a minimum of 15 and a maximum of 35, but it’s been quite a few years since we’ve had 35,” Buchholz said. “Unless we start seeing a large influx of people with the oil development or something, I don’t foresee that problem getting any better any time soon.”
Mark Faller, Hettinger Fire Protection District chief, worries his department may see a similar situation.
“We don’t have a lot of applications in for if somebody retired or quits,” Faller said. “We have a full roster now.”
He said he is happy to have a full roster.
“To me it’s a rewarding thing to volunteer for out of all the different organizations there are in the community,” Faller said. “You would want somebody to do that for you if it was you or your family.”
Buchholz said his department is still functional since there are enough firefighters to get the job done.
“It’s not the point of panic time right now, but it is a concern,” Buchholz said. “The guys we’ve got do a fantastic job and I’m proud of all of them.”