Door County fire departments are struggling for manpower and putting out their own call for help from the community. Volunteerism is down and the fire departments, especially in northern Door County, need more volunteers in order to keep fire and emergency medical service at its current level.
Sister Bay/Liberty Grove Fire Chief Chris Hecht said Door County is not alone in its struggles to recruit volunteers. The problem is nationwide.
“With the downturn in the economy, people are working more part-time jobs, so they have less time to volunteer with no pay,” Hecht said.
In Sturgeon Bay, the Fire Department was recently denied a 3.25 percent pay increase for part-time firefighters by the Sturgeon Bay City Council. The pay raise would have increased the hourly rate for responding to fire calls from $22.72 per hour to $23.46 per hour. Aldermen voted against the increase, with comments that Sturgeon Bay Fire Department (SBFD) part- and full-time firefighters are the highest paid in the state. The problem with that generalization, according to Sturgeon Bay Fire Chief Tim Herlache, is that SBFD is a combined department, with part-time firefighters filling in for full-time firefighters.
Hecht said the Northern Door departments have not come to the point of creating a full-time fire department. However, as more and more state and federal mandates are passed on to the community departments, volunteers get stretched thinner and thinner and are less willing to volunteer time.
Training to become a volunteer firefighter or first responder takes about 60 hours in the first year, Hecht said. If training is completed, the trainee can receive reimbursement.
Anyone interested in becoming a volunteer firefighter or first responder should contact their local fire department.
Door County’s fired departments are seeking more volunteers. Those interested should contact their local department at the number listed below.
Baileys Harbor: 920.839.9411
Brussels-Union-Gardener (BUG): 920.825.1465
Egg Harbor: 920.866.3737
Sister Bay/Liberty Grove: 920.854.4021
Sturgeon Bay: 920.746.2916
Washington Island: 920.847.2355