Fire departments around the nation are depleted of their volunteers and South Dakota is no exception

Recruitment has declined in the past year due to life changes and the pandemic.
Published: Jan. 11, 2022 at 4:42 PM MST
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KEVN) - Volunteer firefighters are a rarity nationwide.

“Specifically South Dakota, 92% to 96% of the fire service in South Dakota is all-volunteer, any help that can come from many sources as far as recruitment retention is needed,” said Jerome Harvey, fire administrator at Pennington County.

The state is attempting to give $2 million for firefighter recruitment and training.

This could potentially provide two mobile burn trailers and training equipment.

“You can simulate hose lays, you can simulate burning, you can simulate ladder work, it’s all sorts of roof work, the way it’s set up now is fantastic, so the ability to come out and actually do that training and give the firefighters hands-on training that they normally do not have access to except on an actual incident,” said Harvey.

The funds would also create a statewide volunteer firefighter recruitment campaign.

“The ability to attract people just on a daily basis whether it’s doing fire prevention work on our local schools, responding to a structure fire, car accidents or a wildland fire, currently and into the foreseeable future all revolves around the ability to attract and keep a steady supply of volunteers coming into the service,” said Harvey.

Harvey says recruitment is crucial for fire services around the state but they are focused on a younger demographic.

“There’s nothing that really says to you that you need to come to join us, and we’ll show you all these benefits for being involved with us because you guys are all focused on doing what you’re doing so it’s just a change in the demographics,” said Harvey.

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