BUTTE - Racing off to a fire is exciting, but volunteer fire departments around Butte are having trouble finding volunteers willing to do it.
“It’s difficult for all volunteers, not only in Montana but around the United States,” said Chief Jim Ross of the Little Basin Creek VFD.
The volunteer departments at Little Basin Creek and Rocker each used to have up to 30 available volunteers to call upon. Now, they each have less than 10 reliable volunteers on the roster.
Rocker Chief Tom Morrill is 73 years old and notes that the older volunteers outnumber the younger ones.
“The older guys sometimes medically have to get out of it, they can’t respond anymore. Fortunately, I stay active and I’m in reasonably good shape,” Morrill said.
Ross believes people don’t feel they have extra time to volunteer, and many businesses won’t give their employees the time off to leave work to respond to a fire.
“Years past many more companies felt they were helping the community by allowing their employees to go in the middle of work to leave and go on a call. I think more companies won’t allow that civic need to do this,” Ross said.
Being a volunteer firefighter takes a lot of commitment and some personal time, but the volunteer firefighters say that the greatest reward for the job is community services.
“But it’s not about us when things go bad, you need to help out. I mean, you’d want somebody to do the same for you, and it’s giving back to where you live,” said Capt. Bud Eveland of the Rocker VFD.
Capt. Pat Nelson of Little Basin Creek VFD added, “You know, being able to see when fires are out, being able to look at the end of the season and hear, ‘wow, that was a really bad season,’ and say, ‘yeah, but I did my part to try to put an end to it.”
The ten volunteer departments are willing to consider men and women without a felony conviction to join their roster. And you don’t have to be a superhero.
“Again there are many things to do on the foreground that doesn't require a lot of strength or some of the things the career firefighters would do,” Ross said.
You just need time and commitment.