Rural Fire Departments seek recruits due to staff shortage

BISMARCK, N.D. - Typically, someone dials 911 when they're in trouble.

Now, first responders are calling on citizens for help, and they are getting a lot of responses.

Responding to a fire call has been a challenge for Rural Fire Departments due to a shortage of staff. Now people are lining up to sign up after a public service announcement proved to be quite effective.

What if you dialed 911, and no one was available to help for an hour? That's the reality for many rural communities.

This Public Service Announcement is raising awareness about a shortage of firefighters. Fire Chief Michael Voigt says it can take up to fifteen minutes before help from nearby stations reaches the front door. Then they still have to respond from there.

“Every time you have to do that now you're taking away from them and their ability to help people as well so it's a fine line,” said Michael Voigt, Bismarck Rural Fire Department Fire Chief.

The North Dakota Firefighters Association received a grant to fix this problem and help departments across the state with recruitment efforts.

Before the PSA started airing, there were no applicants to run this engine, but now there are 8 to 12.

“It's been getting better actually, in the last couple of weeks I know they started a new round of PSA's now and that has generated a fair amount of calls to our department and we are following up on every one of them,” said Voigt.

Currently the Bismarck Rural Fire Department has 25 part time volunteers, but during the busy grassfire season, Voigt says he needs at least 32.

If you are interested in volunteering for the Bismarck Rural Fire Department, you can find an application at http://bismarckruralfire.org/