Online Originals: Volunteer Firefighter Shortage Special Report

Online Originals

JACKSONVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) – 93% of Onslow County’s force of firefighters are volunteer, but that force is shrinking.

“Fire service in Onslow County is a problem that’s looming in the future that we really have to begin to address.” Sharon Russell, Onslow County Interim Manager  

Over the last eight years, the number of volunteer firefighters in Onslow County has decreased by 27%.

Chief Jeremy Foster with Pumpkin Volunteer Fire Department says the largest group of volunteers he’s had at the station is 40 but it has been a slow decline.

Foster says time and money are contributing factors. However, it doesn’t stop those who still continue to step up.

“The steady decline is concerning but I know that there are some people that are still going to come out here and answer the call.”  Cody Cox, Pumpkin Volunteer Fire Fighter  

Even with the 27% decline, response times in the county are still under the national benchmark of 9 minutes.

County officials say though that in the future the decline could cause a strain.

“We’ve got to look at gradually increasing paid fire staff in Onslow County.”  Sharon Russell, Onslow County Interim Manager 

Option leaders are looking at is a fire tax or assessment.

“Onslow county is only one of eight counties in the state without a fire assessment or fire tax, It’s very important that we plan accurately for the future so we can provide a good fire service.” Sharon Russell, Onslow County Interim Manager 

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