BEAVER COUNTY (KDKA) — Volunteer fire departments in Pennsylvania are struggling to attract volunteers.
There is plenty of gear at the Beaver Volunteer Fire Station but fewer people are suiting up.
There is a shortage of volunteers, not just in Beaver County, but in the country and state.
“It’s not just here, it’s countywide,” Beaver Fire Chief John Grosskopf said. “There are 47 departments in the county and we are all having a problem.”
There are three firetrucks at the Bever station and 21 volunteers.
The chief said he would like to see 30-35 total volunteers.
Many times when a fire call is answered, companies from several nearby municipalities respond to assist.
Chief Grosskopf and his wife Rebecca, who is a captain at the station, have come up with a unique way to recruit.
“I created posters and we blanketed the community and the county with these signs,” John Grosskopf said.
The signs read, “Protect your family by joining our family;” “It takes a team to get the job done;” “Fight like a girl, find the fighter in you.”
Readers are also directed to an email for the Beaver Volunteer Fire Station.
The chief said he has gotten a few hits but so far no volunteers.
Across the state, the number of volunteer firefighters has declined from 300,000 in the 1970s to 38,000 in 2018.
Bruce Trego, the state fire commissioner, said there are a number of reasons. He cited more demands on families for both parents to work and the amount of required training.
Trego said a solution may be offering incentives like paying for college tuition, paying the rent or mortgage or tax incentives.
Ironically, the state where the first volunteer fire company was created in 1736 by Benjamin Franklin in Philadelphia has a shortage of volunteers.