by Nick Russo – NBC 25 News
THOMAS TOWNSHIP, Mich. — Local fire departments are sounding the alarm. They don’t have enough firefighters. It’s a shortage facing crews in many Mid-Michigan communities.
At one time Thomas Township had a waiting list of people who wanted to volunteer for the Fire Department.
“The numbers are dwindling at a pretty significant rate,” said Chief Mike Cousins.
He says departments all around Mid-Michigan face a shortage of people.
“Every other community in our area specifically is short for staffing. The on call fires, there is not uncommon to see a fire go out, a structure fire, and you’re having 6 to 9 fire departments with maybe a couple guys each, that’s all they have,” explained Cousins.
The shortage hits communities like Thomas Township hard because they rely mostly on volunteers.
“There are some cases where you call for a fire department for help, and they can’t provide you anybody, so there is no help available because they also have to make sure someone is staying in their own town for another call,” said Cousins.
Chief Cousins says over the last ten years they’ve seen a decline of about 300 fire fighters in Saginaw County.
“Can you do it with less? Well you might be able to do it with less but it’s very unsafe and you’re definitely not complying with any of the codes that mandate staffing numbers,” explains Cousins.
He attributes the decline in volunteer or paid on call firefighters to people’s lives being busier than ever.
Volunteers need to go through the same rigorous training as a career firefighter.
“It’s going to be a big commitment, it’s almost a part time job,” warned Cousins.
If you think you’re up for the task of volunteering you can check with your local department to sign up.