Volunteer Shortage Burns Kooskia Fire Department
KOOSKIA, ID —
A pre-Thanksgiving fire destroyed a home near Kooskia. While no one was hurt, it did leave some burning questions. A shortage of volunteers to fight fires is leaving the town's fire department asking what will happen the next time a call comes in.
Not much is left of a home destroyed by fire just a day before Thanksgiving. It was that fire that inspired Lucky Brandt to write a letter.
"Suppose you had a house fire tonight and no one came to help." That's the beginning of a heartfelt plea the Kooskia Fire Department Assistant Chief, Luck Brandt, sent to every newspaper in the area.
"It's been an ongoing problem for a long time that we've just not had enough volunteers," said Brandt.
He said it took multiple pages and over 20 minutes before they found three people to help that Thanksgiving eve. The decline in volunteer firefighters is something being felt around the nation, especially in small or rural departments.
Kooskia Fire Chief Marc Anderson said their small department answers, "Between fire and ambulance, probably 300 dispatches a year."
Anderson said they have a great crew and do monthly trainings to keep skills fresh, but recruits often grow discouraged when training doesn't turn into action. That's why they need committed volunteers who can be ready to answer the call at a moment’s notice.
"Those younger people have the energy that some of us older ones don't have anymore," said Brandt.
But young, old, male, or female, Anderson says it doesn't matter. They'll take anyone on board, especially since their numbers have sadly declined by two.
"In the past four years we've lost two of our guys to cancer which is...it has been an extra blow," said Brandt.
Brandt has been with the department since the 70's and Anderson started in his early 20's. They've grown up doing this work, and hope a new generation will follow in their footsteps.
"I've gotten to the point that my family is the fire department and the ambulance," said Anderson.
"Marc's made his family here," added Brandt.
To which Anderson laughs, "They've adopted me."
They're not just looking for firefighters or EMT's to join their family. They said there's lots of maintenance work they need assistance with, too.
They're accepting volunteers regardless of age, gender, or previous experience. All training is provided and Chief Anderson says it's a great opportunity for high school students to get involved in fire and rescue. Many of their volunteers have gone on to larger departments or have become doctors.
You can find out more information on volunteering for the Kooskia Fire Department by visiting the station, located at 401 Front St. in Kooskia.