Volunteerism strong at fire departmentsOct 16, 2015 By Kelli Ameling, Staff Writer
Two local fire departments are very close to filling their rosters of volunteer firefighters, which is something the department heads said they are happy to see.
Battalion 3 of the Fremont County Fire Protection District, which covers rural Lander, has 32 volunteers on its department and six cadets- leaving just a few spaces to be filled.
Lander Volunteer Fire Department is seeing the same trend, filling 40 of the 45 spots on its roster.
Battalion 3 fire chief Nick Johnson said it has been close to 10 years since the department has had a full roster.
"It is great to see a full roster," Johnson said. "It's not easy for all the volunteers to make it to all of the calls, so having a lot of firefighters on the roster makes it easier to staff the trucks."
Currently, Johnson said, the department is looking for more cadets to continue the cadet program, which carries volunteers ages 16 to 18 with students carrying a C average in school.
"They are allowed to participate in all the activities as a regular firefighter except live fire," Johnson said.
"This is a training program for high-school students who want to become firefighters. It is important to have people who want to be firefighters, (as) it is a way to give back to the community."
According to LVFD chief Eric Siwik, having a high number of firefighters is important because of the fact they are volunteers.
"For me, it means that no mater what kind of call we get or what time of day it is, we will always have people to respond," Siwik said.
Because the firefighters are on a volunteer basis, the department cannot tell them when to respond, and the firefighters have family, work, vacations and other responsibilities to schedule around while volunteering.
"Not everyone can make every call, so having a high-number of volunteers on the roster is crucial to make sure we get a response every time the tones go out," Siwik said.
It is not always about battling fires: The firefighters also volunteer their time at the department for public-relations events, fundraisers, school visits and more.
Siwik said the Lander City Council decides the number establishing a full roster for LVFD. The last time the department saw a full roster was in 2000.
City of Lander fire administrator Nick Hudson said during the past year, one of the biggest accomplishments the department has seen is the volunteers.
"Our other real success in the last year is continuing to train and orient our new volunteer firefighters," Hudson said, noting an increase in recent years. "I would speak for all that are involved that building for the future is rewarding but also fun. It also revitalizes the existing members as they are able to pass on their knowledge and experiences of service."
When the roster becomes full at either LVFD or through the FCFPD, applicants are placed on a waiting list. Once an opening is available, volunteers are brought onto the department.
Riverton Volunteer Fire Department chief Scott Walters said his department's greatest accomplishment during the past year was seeing an increase in volunteers.
Currently, the department has 37 of 45 spots filled on its roster.
"I don't know the reason for the increase, but I sure wish I did to continue it," Walters said.
Walters echoed other departments when it comes to why it's important to have fuller rosters on local fire departments.
"It means a lot - it's a way to give back to the community," Walters said, noting volunteers allow for more bodies to be present to battle fires.