According to the rural fire departments in our area are experiencing a shortage of volunteers.  Actually, they have volunteers, but only a few can be really be counted on to show up when needed.  Then, additional volunteer departments need to be called in and that leaves their township without a crew.  What can be done to solve this growing problem?  Is it possible that volunteer fire departments will soon be a thing of the past?  Who would someone living in the rural areas call with a medical emergency or a fire?

Where I live now I rely on a city run fire department, but volunteer fire departments have affected my life growing up.  I have memories of both the Carlton and Wrenshall's Volunteer Emergency Services.

I'm personally grateful for the Wrenshall Fire Department, they saved my mother's house, me and my guinea pig, Quiche in the mid 80's.  I had just come home from working the graveyard shift at Perkin's in Cloquet passing my mother in the doorway as she headed to the JM Paine Memorial Church in Carlton.

I was snuggling in bed waiting to drift off to sleep when I heard a huge boom outside.  I got up to investigate and as I was walking to the window I could hear a weird sound coming from the vent to the basement.  The best way to describe it is a "surging electronic sound".  I could smell the smoke as I was heading down the stairs and immediately went back upstairs to call 911 on my mom's CORDED kitchen wall phone.  You KNOW you live in a small community when I knew the 911 dispatcher, Karen Grover.

In fact, I knew most of the volunteer fire fighters that showed up to fight the fire in the basement, which by the way was a result of a car losing control and crashing into our power pole in the ditch near our home. (that was the BOOM, I heard). I still remember how nice Tom Long was going in to save my guinea pig and how the fire fighters helped my mother and I understand what we had to do to fix the electrical issue and who to call to do the extensive cleaning.

Then there was the time in 1972 that the Carlton's volunteer ambulance crew came to get my ailing father from our home when I was seven.  I was told to stay out of the way but was confused and scared and didn't want them to take my father away on a stretcher.  One of the volunteer medics with the last name of Roy was very kind.  He took the time to stop and comfort me, telling me that my father would be well taken care of.  I was too young to realize that those two minutes he spent with me was a moment that would live in my memory all these years.  It was the last time I saw my father alive.

God bless our volunteers that put their fears aside to save the lives of others.  If it weren't for our volunteer fire fighters and EMT's, countless lives and property would be lost.  They are considering incentive programs to get people to sign up and participate.  Would you do it for an incentive?  I get that people are busy with life and family, but could you ignore the siren when you heard it, knowing that a family in your community needed you?


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