Letter to the Editor

To the Editor:
When an individual calls 911, the call is answered by a radio dispatcher, an unsung hero behind the phone and radio. The dispatcher response is “911, do you need police, fire or medical?”
Here is one hot topic. Recently, articles have been published in both the Columbus Dispatch as well as the Dayton Daily News reporting “Ohio’s volunteer fire departments face extinction, leaving large part of state at risk,” and “Volunteers for area fire departments dwindling.”
The State of Ohio reported a 6.5 percent decrease in the number of volunteer firefighters between 2018 and 2021.
While there are some volunteer fire departments that are doing well in many respects, Ohio has other departments that are not doing well at all. Many are financially challenged in multiple areas. Coupled with recruitment and retention difficulties and cumbersome training requirements mandated by the State of Ohio.
Every volunteer firefighter must immediately respond, leaving their family, their employer or other commitment at a moment’s notice to go assist someone in their, or the neighboring, community no matter what time of day it is. Response times for volunteer fire departments can be more than 15 minutes.
Most volunteers must pay for their own training and their own equipment, according to the state’s report. The typical cost for training can range from a few hundred dollars to over $1000, while equipment costs can reach as much as $4,000. Additionally, most volunteers must take time away from their part-time or full-time jobs to complete training, which is problematic for both employers and the volunteer fire service.
Ohio’s volunteer fire departments are often forced to make difficult decisions about how to spend their money with needs such as fuel, training, protective gear and other equipment. But, they’re critical as they provide 70 percent of fire services in Ohio.
Currently in Ohio, very few volunteer firefighters have any benefits, financial or otherwise, from their community or local jurisdiction. The only benefit is they were possibly able to assist someone.
According to the Ohio Department of Commerce, the average age of a volunteer firefighter in Ohio is 54 years old,, which leaves recruiting volunteers a major concern. It has reached the point where some volunteer fire departments are forced to conduct fundraising projects (pancake and waffle breakfast, chicken dinners, spaghetti dinners, etc.) to raise money to purchase diesel fuel for fire equipment to respond to calls.
Volunteer fire departments do their best to provide citizens with high quality, professional emergency services, but many are facing the grim reality that the days of being here for their community may be numbered.
In Carroll County we have already experienced two departments who have consolidated and two that dissolved with equipment sent to other volunteer fire departments.
What is being done and what can we do to assist with the financial challenge fire departments face?
The State of Ohio offers grant opportunities for fire departments that can be used for firefighter personal protective equipment, fire suppression equipment utility-terrain vehicles, slip-in wildfire pump units, radios, tools and other items used in fire department operations. However, not all fire departments that apply will receive all they requested. However, something is better than what they had before.
As a citizen, we can assist the fire departments in Carroll County. As citizens we need to vote for a fire levy, if one is on the ballot. As citizens we need to show them support with fundraisers to help offset expenses. We, as citizens need to abide by the State of Ohio Burning Ban. As citizens, we need to provide a monetary donation, if one is able, to offset expenses. You, as a citizen, may wish to join a local fire department. We, as citizens, need to give them thanks for the service they do. This is one fire you shouldn’t put out.
Remember, “911, do you need police, fire, or medical?” When seconds matter, we may need the fire department one day. Let’s hope they will still be there and not extinct when the time comes.
Edward L. Hale
Carrollton, OH

Skip to content