It was in December that Clinton Herald staff writer John Rohlf, after covering a meeting in Camanche, said the Camanche Fire Department was dealing with a struggle fought by many rural volunteer departments.
The number of firefighters on that department’s roster had dropped significantly over the years and city officials were concerned that the decline would not slow down. We ran the story, hoping that maybe one or two people would be encouraged to consider such a challenge.
Then the events of Jan. 5 happened. Clinton city firefighters were called to Clinton’s Archer Daniels Midland plant to extinguish a grain silo fire. A resulting explosion killed Clinton Fire Lt. Eric Hosette and seriously injured Clinton fighter Adam Cain, who is showing steady progress at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics in Iowa City.
In the days after that tragedy, we received an email from a firefighter with one of Clinton County’s rural fire departments also stating the need for more volunteers to step forward to serve on rural fire departments.
We know that Clinton’s city department is a paid department, and as a result has rotating shifts to protect our city around the clock. But in Camanche and our smaller towns throughout the county, volunteer firefighters are the ones that provide help when needed.
And that can be a struggle.
Often volunteer firefighters work another full-time job. Day-time availability becomes an issue for departments because many firefighters work during the day and are unable to make it to the call. Or, maybe many of a department’s firefighters work out of town and are unable to be on the spot for immediate emergencies.
And then there are those who, after many years of volunteering, still want to go on the call, but their bodies are starting to hold them back and they know it’s time to retire. They don’t want to, but they have to.
What’s left is the need to fill those spots with volunteers ready to help out in their community.
Is it a commitment? You bet it is. Training, going out on calls, and taking care of the station and its equipment take up a lot of time.
And of course, there’s always the possibility that a firefighter will be called to the scene to assist someone they know, be it a friend or family member.
Don’t know if being a volunteer firefighter is a good fit for you? Remember, there is room for varied skills. Firefighters do man the hoses and go into burning structures, but departments need volunteers to drive the truck and have the skills to maintain those trucks and other equipment to keep them up and running. You even can become someone who trains and grow into a leadership role.
In exchange, volunteer firefighters provide the noble service of helping others in their deepest hour of need and, at the same time, become part of an established brotherhood that supports each other.
There are a whole lot of fire departments that would welcome someone walking into their doors and volunteering their time.
If this sounds like you, we invite you to do so.