COMANCHE COUNTY, Okla. (TNN) -It’s a statewide issue. Volunteer fire departments are understaffed.
Even though they can have up to 25 members, many in Comanche County are not even at 20.
Comanche County has 19 volunteer fire departments, and a majority of those have less than 15 people on the department. Their goal is to increase their numbers.
“We have a lot of newer subdivisions out in this area and I think a lot of people move out here and don’t know who their fire department is. I think a lot of them think that Lawton fire respond out here. Lawton fire is a great department, but they don’t come outside city limits, said Thomas Zivkovic.
Paradise Valley Volunteer Fire Department has 12 members. Their firefighters don’t get paid, but in some larger communities they do.
“Like here in Cache we get paid for every call we run up to 20 calls a month to help subsidize some of that. We get free training and stuff like that. I think it’s just one of those things as the old firefighters retire, younger people are just into more things other than fighting fires and running EMS calls," said Michael Bolin.
He said the shortage makes it hard when responding to emergencies.
“If it’s a fire, and it’s a large fire and you only have one or two firefighters show up, it makes it real difficult to put that fire out. You have to depend on surrounding community firefighters and other towns to come help us," said Bolin.
People that live within a five mile radius of a volunteer fire department are encouraged to join. Training is free and volunteers will learn to do various jobs.
“I like helping people. I mean when people call us it’s because they’re having one the worst days of their lives and we get to help them out, and I really enjoy that," said Zivkovic.
If you are interested in joining one of the 19 volunteer fire departments, or seeing if there is one near you, you can call Comanche County Emergency Management at (580) 355-0535.