WHITEHALL — I may be more suited for a tie and a coat and a comfy office, but if you got what it takes to be a volunteer firefighter, there are small, rural fire departments like the one in Whitehall that could really use the help of citizens who want to help their community.
“The biggest need is volunteers, especially during the day; we only have one person, maybe, or two people if they show up sometimes,” said Whitehall Fire Chief Joe Granvold.
Kelsey McDuff is often the only one available during the day. She and her husband joined the department two years ago after they watched the chief, who is their neighbor, respond to several calls in one day.
“We watched him get home, ring and alarm, get home, ring another alarm, get home, so my husband walked over and said, ‘Hey, we’re ready to volunteer for you,’” said McDuff.
The mother of three is there to cover the 350-square-mile region, which is one of the largest fire districts in western Montana.
“She responds to a lot of stuff by herself, which is pretty unsafe for her to do, but she’s really good at calling mutual aid out when we have to call them out,” said Granvold.
It’s challenging work for anyone, much less a young woman.
“My gear’s probably about half my weight, so it’s heavy, but you get a lot of adrenaline and stuff like that,” said McDuff.
The Whitehall Baptist Church hosting a fundraiser for the department, but Paster Kyle Gilstrap knows the importance of having volunteers.
“We’re raising funds for them, but if we don’t have people to actually go out and do it, you know, the funds don’t go to much, and so we want to help any way we can, but definitely their biggest need is more people to volunteer and plug in,” said Gilstrap.
The fundraiser will be at the Whitehall Community Center on April 1 at 6 p.m.