POSEY CO., IN (WFIE) - Posey County Volunteer Firefighters are pushing for a change that could help firefighters all across the state of Indiana.
The main issue fire departments are seeing is the number of calls responding to fires is going up. Meanwhile, the number of volunteer firefighters across the state is going down, drastically.
Right now volunteer firefighters account for 89 percent of firefighters in the state, which is why it’s so important to keep them around.
“You can have the best trucks, and all the tools, and all the gadgets in the world, but if you don’t have people to put in them, it doesn’t really matter," Jacob Luker, Chandler Fire Chief, explained.
Local firefighters say they are facing an epidemic with the interest in volunteer firefighting fading.
“We’re seeing to the point where for every two firefighters we have leave the fire department we’re not only getting one application back, which is causing us to run short staffed on a lot of calls, particularly fires,” said Jonathan Hancock, Firefighter with Black Township Fire and Rescue.
So what’s causing this shortage? For starters the lack of benefits.
“A lot of these people have 20, 30, 40 years in and they’re doing it just for a pat on the back and a thank you,” explained Hancock.
Firefighters from all over Southern Indiana met with state representatives on Monday, pleading for their help in getting retirement benefits and healthcare.
“Maybe by just getting the word out to the communities, you might pique the interest of some of the younger people to maybe come on board and get involved in this,” says Indiana Senator Jim Tomes District 49.
All the elected officials said they were on board with finding a solution.
“I think you have to sell it as an opportunity to belong, because money isn’t going to incentive this next generation,” Representative Wendy McNamara District 76 explained.
The value of keeping volunteer firefighters isn’t just important for safety, but also for taxpayers. Fire officials 14 News, if volunteer firefighters became full time employees in Indiana, it would cost taxpayers nearly $423 million alone.