Diminishing Numbers of Volunteer Firefighters

By: Marcus Washington
By: Marcus Washington

June 10, 2005

Year after year, firefighters risk their lives to help others. Now we're hearing that some localities right here in Central Virginia are in the midst of a shortage of volunteers.

Being able to ride that shiny red truck and operate that water hose is a job that a lot of little kids dreamed of doing. Now all grown up, some of those kids who dreamed of being firefighters are doing just that, and they're doing it for free.

"Well volunteers save taxpayers countless dollars each year. It probably cost the county several $100,000 a year to provide [services] if it were done through a paid Fire Department," said Troy Coppage, a Madison County Volunteer Firefighter.

But that generosity isn't shared as much as it use to. Each year there are fewer volunteer firefighters joining to help out counties like Madison. Troy Coppage is the President of the Madison County Volunteer Fire Department. He says that Madison county isn't doing badly when it comes to volunteers, but other counties aren't so lucky.

"Surrounding counties haven't been as fortunate due to different circumstances," explained Coppage.

Greene County's President says they are experiencing low numbers in volunteers, but the department isn't suffering.

"We have a large burden on our firefighters and we would like to increase our rolls so we don't have that burden. We want to spread the workload out a little bit," said Greene County Firefighter President Bill Purcell.

A burden that would be lifted with a little help. Each year departments responds to hundreds of calls. Even if they have a large number of volunteers, both presidents say they can always use more help.

"We do need people that are dedicated to what they do and they'd want to come and help and learn, and just be part of the community and give back what they can because we live in such a wonderful community," said Purcell.

Albemarle County Department of Fire and Rescue says it does have a shortage, but it is not at a critical point right now. If you would like to get more information about becoming a volunteer firefighter, you can contact the local volunteer departments at the following numbers:

Standardsville - 434-985-4638

Ruckersville - 434-985-7385

Albemarle - 434-973-1717

Madison - 540-948-6660

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