Worker shortage begins to impact local rural fire districts

Another thing Peterson says is preventing people from volunteering at the fire department? The housing shortage
Wendell Rural Fire District and Hagerman Fire Protection responded to a fire Thursday afternoon...
The Hagerman Fire Protection District has struggled to find firefighters(KMVT/Steve Kirch)
Published: May. 12, 2022 at 5:16 PM MDT
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MAGIC VALLEY, Idaho (KMVT/KSVT) — Hagerman Fire chief Tim Peterson has been struggling to find people come to work at the Hagerman Fire Protection District over the last two years.

As COVID-19 entered into the community in 2020, older firefighters had to be put on leave.

“We did have some people that we put on a leave of absence due to their age and underlying medical conditions. And during the two year period, they decided that they would go ahead and retire,” Peterson said.

While Hagerman does employ full-time firefighters, most of them are volunteers.

“The fire division has about 19 people on it, but we only generally get maybe half of those guys who are active firefighters,” said Peterson.

But why are only half of them able to cover shifts? Inflation and working longer hours has made it tough on these volunteers to be able to make it to calls.

“Some of the guys we’ve had for quite some time are having a hard time because they have to work more hours, longer hours, (and) maybe a second job,” Peterson said.

Hagerman isn’t alone in the struggle to find volunteer firefighters. In fact, at the Filer Fire Department, they’re fully volunteer, which makes it even more tough on them to go to calls.

“We demand a lot of the volunteers that have full time jobs and they can get away from their jobs to come from these calls,” said Filer Fire Department chief Steven Mullen.

Due to the extra work they’re putting in, burnout is becoming an issue.

“One individual has supposed to have been retired for almost five years now, my predecessor. And he continuously makes the day shift calls for us on EMS and fire,” said Mullen.

Another thing Peterson says is preventing people from volunteering at the fire department? The housing shortage.

“A lot of the rentals in our community turned into AirBnbs. What rentals were available? If you lose your rental, you’d be very lucky to find another one,” said Peterson.

Mullen strongly encourages people to apply. “If you’re interested in EMS or fire, you’re more than welcome to come down.”

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