Fire Fighter Shortage Nearing Crisis Level

CHERRYVILLE, NC – North Carolina fire departments are now using public service announcements to recruit new hires.

“People don’t understand the need,” said Jeff Cash, the Cherryville Fire Chief, “they just assume that the fire truck, the ambulance, the patrol car is just going to be there.”

Cash has been the Cherryville Fire Chief for 35 years. His department is made up of 45 people; 34 of them are volunteers.

“It’s like a roller coaster. There’s years where we cannot find and cannot full the roster, then there will be a surge of people interested,” said Cash.

According to FEMA, 72 percent of the firefighters in the state are volunteers. Since 2016, the state has lost an average of 600 firefighters a year.

“I think we’re borderline, not only in North Carolina, but across the country of it getting to be a serious crisis,” said Cash.

The shortage can impact response times and where resources typically come from.

“If you have a call in one district, you may get 4 or 5 departments that come,” said Chief Lee Price from the Wake-New Hope Fire Department. “Where as in 10- or 15 years ago, maybe 2 departments came because they had more people, more volunteers that could handle that call. ”

Cash says several things are keeping people from joining the fire service. Possible firefighters have more work options and less time.
It takes more than 300 hours in the classroom before firefighters can get certified to fight fires. a

“It’s just more difficult to get the commitment out of these folks,” said Cash.

The work is changing too. firefighters are spending more time responding to traffic accidents, medical calls, and hazmat issues. Which means more training for potential hires.

The training is free for potential firefighters. You can find more information at this link.

The NC Association of Fire Chiefs is asking all interested volunteers to visit