WINTERVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) – North Carolina continues to face a shortage of volunteer firefighters.
There’s a new state initiative to recruit volunteers that Winterville’s Fire Department is part of.
More than 70 percent of North Carolina’s firefighters are volunteers, but the ranks of volunteers drop every year.
That means fewer people to protect the community in emergencies.
“The number of volunteers have been dwindling for the past decade and it’s beginning to become a crisis of sorts in the fire service,” said Tony Klontz, Winterville Fire Department Deputy Chief.
It’s a crisis that could result in lives lost.
“If someone has an emergency, they have a fire in their home, someone’s going to be there,” said Klontz. “But with a shortage of volunteers, it might take the department longer to get there. The longer it takes us to get there to handle the emergency, the worse off the emergency’s going to be.”
But now, there’s a two-year initiative to address this shortage in 15 at-risk North Carolina areas, including Pitt County.
“The North Carolina Association of Fire Chiefs and the International Association of Fire Chiefs teamed up with Volunteer Work Solutions,” said Klontz. “They’ve implemented these partnerships with volunteer fire departments and they’re working together with us to increase our recruitment efforts.”
Klontz says his department is already seeing an increase in volunteers since the initiative’s kickoff in June.