Call volumes are up 14 percent this year, with increased traffic through the area.By Royce Jones

HOOKSTOWN, Pa. (KDKA) — They have tried everything from outreach to radio advertisements but still, one local volunteer fire department can’t manage to find volunteers.

And now the department barely scraping by.

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“I fear the day will come when there’s an emergency that myself or someone else that I know has and nobody comes,” said Hookstown Volunteer Fire Department Chief Doug Waxler.

(Photo Credit: KDKA)

His department covers three municipalities and provides mutual aid to a fourth. Call volumes are up 14 percent this year, with increased traffic through the area, according to Waxler.

And the number of volunteers is down significantly among emergency medical services.

“We handle life-threatening issues until the ambulance can get there. In an EMS situation, we’re unable to respond to about half of the calls,” the chief told KDKA.

But when the department does respond, Waxler said, “So far this year, it’s an average of about 33 minutes.”

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Ideally, Waxler said he’d like to have somebody respond in eight to 10 minutes. The decrease spans decades and is happening nation-, state- and county-wide.

Brian Hanne, the secretary of the Beaver County Firefighter’s Association, told KDKA that the decrease has been ignited, in part, by canceled fire training classes during the pandemic, which the association provides for free.

“What would take six months to complete stretched it out for the whole entire year,” said Hanne.

Hookstown has not missed a fire because of the decrease yet. But with staffing becoming critical, the chief fears the department could in the future.

The Hookstown VFD is looking for volunteers of all ages. To apply, call the station at 724-573-4111.

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If you are interested in applying for volunteer positions, including some behind the scenes, at any other VFD across Beaver County, email the Beaver Co. Firefighter’s Association at beavercountyfire@gmail.com.