MANHATTAN, Kan. (KSNT) – Many organizations throughout the U.S. are getting used to staffing issues, but here in Kansas, there’s one in particular that can’t afford shortages – the fire department.
Specifically, volunteer firefighters are hard to find. Russel Stukey, the Riley County Emergency Management Director, spoke with County Commissioners to let them know the situation is rough on Monday. He says that the department currently has around 110 volunteers, but the goal is to have between 160 to 170.
With the intense fire season, volunteers are seeing burnout with a high level of fatigue. This becomes a major problem when forces are low, especially due to how quickly fires need to be responded to.
“When you have volunteers, you never know who’s going to be available for sure,” Stukey said. “Unlike paid staff that know they have A, B and C shift, and people are more than likely going to show up for work, you never know when any given time for the day when the call will come in for the volunteer fire department. Who may be available, who may be tied up with family or work or other things, so you need an abundance of people that could be available so hopefully you get enough people to staff a truck and get it out the door.”
Without the right number of volunteers in a certain area, calls have to be made to other fire stations for help or even the state when the situation calls for it. Stukey says being a volunteer firefighter can be an incredibly rewarding way to serve the community, gain experience and find out if being a firefighter full-time is something you want to pursue.
For more information on how to participate as a volunteer firefighter in Riley County, go here.