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National shortage of volunteer firefighters felt in Wabash valley

Sam McClain is a Lieutenant on the Sugar Creek Fire Department. The department has been in need of new volunteers for a while, but they are getting harder to come by.

Posted: Dec 12, 2018 6:41 PM

WEST TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTHI)- Sam McClain is a Lieutenant on the Sugar Creek Fire Department. The department has been in need of new volunteers for a while, but they are getting harder to come by.

"We started with twenty-two and we're already down to five,” said McClain as he talked about the current group of trainees. “That's kind of a statistic that goes to show that it’s really hard for retention."

70% of all firefighters in the nation are volunteers. That's according to the U.S. fire administration. Kevin Murphey of the Riley Fire Department says these declining numbers make it harder for them to do their work.

"We can do a lot with just a few people but to do it safely and to do it well we need a large number of manpower. That's where we're lacking nationwide," said Murphy.

It’s an issue that could also affect the community. There could be more full-time positions created to compensate for the lack of volunteers and that could end up costing the community.

"So if we're not getting the volunteer numbers, it’s going to end up coming back I think to the residents in the form of a tax that they may also not be happy about," said Murphy.

Departments like Sugar Creek hope more people will step forward with an interest in this life-saving career.

"This is a career choice, you can make a career out of this. There are opportunity's all across America and all across the world where you can be a career fireman and that usually starts in the volunteer world," said McClain.

If you're interested in learning more about being a volunteer firefighter at Sugar Creek. Check out their website here.

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