South Routt fire departments seek new volunteers
Steamboat Springs — The Oak Creek and Yampa fire departments are looking for new recruits.
To help attract new volunteer firefighters, the departments will begin holding a firefighting academy in January that will run through May. Those who complete the free course will earn a firefighter 1 certification.
Across the United States, fire departments that rely on volunteers and minimally paid firefighters are struggling to fill their ranks. It is no different here in Routt County, and local officials increasingly are growing concerned.
Yampa Fire Protection District Capt. Ralph Bracegirdle said his department is hoping to prop up volunteer numbers.
“We’re sitting at 13 volunteers right now,” Bracegirdle said. “That’s very low. Ideally, we would like to have 25 members.”
They also would like to find volunteers who are around town during the day on weekdays so they can respond to calls.
“Most of our guys are up in Steamboat during that time,” Bracegirdle said.
Oak Creek Chief Chuck Wisecup said his department’s volunteer numbers are also very low with about 15 volunteers.
“We’ve been low for the past couple of years,” Wisecup said.
Volunteers are not paid at the Yampa department, but Bracegirdle explained there are some benefits that come with being a volunteer firefighter.
Bracegirdle said that after 20 years of service, a volunteer can receive a monthly pension of $490. After 10 years, a volunteer can receive half that amount. With a two-year commitment, volunteers can receive grant money to help pay for college. Three volunteers in Routt County each received $5,000 grants last year.
Those who attend the firefighting academy to serve on the Yampa fire department will attend training Monday nights. For the Oak Creek department, training will be held Wednesday nights. The two departments also will work together to hold trainings on some Saturdays, and there is coursework that needs to be completed online.
After becoming members of the departments, volunteers are expected to attend regular training sessions.
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