Volunteer Firefighters On Decline Across Oklahoma
OKLAHOMA CITY, Oklahoma - Fire departments across Oklahoma and nationwide are dealing with a decline in volunteer firefighters.
Here in Oklahoma, work is being done not only to increase volunteers but more importantly to retain them.
When fires rage, often-times it's volunteer firefighters like Sheri Nickel who respond. Rural communities depending on these men and women to save their lives and property.
“As we know last spring Northwest Oklahoma was hit hard,” Nickel said, “fire doesn't know the difference between a volunteer firefighter or paid firefighter we're doing the same thing.”
Sadly, Nickel said volunteers like herself are getting tougher to find.
“People just don't want to do things for free anymore like they used to.” She said.
There's no pay, no steady hours, and the work is grueling.
“We do the best we can with what we have to do it with, and that's just kind of the motto,” Nickel said.
Oklahoma State Firefighters Association is now working to keep this line of work afloat with a $2.2 million grant. The money will be used to pay for research, gear, and training.
“It's our belief that a well-trained firefighter is going to stay on a department longer than someone who's just doing it for the free t-shirt and the stickers on their truck,” Nickel said.
Here in Oklahoma, there are about 10,000 total firefighters and about 6,000 volunteer firefighters.