Digging deeper into the volunteer firefighter shortage

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It takes a special person... and our fire departments need more of them.

There is a shortage of volunteer firefighters across our area, states, and country - but it's something every community needs when there's not enough money to support a professional fire protection service.

"We can’t farm it out," explained Colona Fire Department Chief John Swan. "We can’t ask someone else to come in and take care of our emergencies, because minutes save lives and property, so we have to be able to take care of ourselves and our community."

We had "Breakfast With..." Chief Swan live on Good Morning Quad Cities on Thursday, April 26th. Click on the video clip above to hear why he says there's a volunteer firefighter shortage.

One of the reasons is a lack of incentives or benefits. Chief Swan said there's an active push to create more, but more help is needed from the state.

"We’re trying to provide benefits to the volunteer firefighters now," he explained. "There’s not very many in Illinois. We just passed the Tire Bill here last year, which allows the volunteer firefighter to buy a set of tires for his personal vehicle under the state contract, so we’re trying to develop things to help recruit and retain firefighters."

Another way volunteer fire departments do that is through cadet and explorer programs. Click the video below to hear from one of those cadets, as well as the Silvis Fire Department's Interim Fire Chief about why more firefighters are needed and what it takes to become a firefighter for your community:

Overall, volunteer firefighters not only save lives, but they save small communities a lot of money.

"In the state of Illinois, the volunteer fire service saves our resident $7 billion a year and I calculated this a few years ago that just on a local level, just a minimum amount of staffing on a $100,000 home, it would raise your taxes a minimum of $300 at least," explained Chief Swan.

What's more - 70% of Illinois' firefighters are volunteers and so he says more support is needed and needed now:

"We need to protect the volunteers and protect the fire service and I know the communities do all the best they can, but we’ve gotta do more."

The Colona Fire Department has eight openings right now. To contact Chief John Swan, click here.

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