HELENA – On Wednesday, Aug. 29 volunteer fire departments from around the Helena area gathered at Safeway on Prospect Ave. for a Lewis and Clark Rural Fire Council fundraiser and recruitment drive.
This is the second year the event has been held with the purpose of raising funds and supplies for local fire departments and recruiting more volunteer firefighters for the local departments.
Chief Jerry Shepard of West Valley Volunteer Fire Department said that finding people to be volunteer firefighters is the biggest hurdle most departments face right now.
“Lot of people think they have to go into a big burning building,” said Shepard, “But really about 75 percent of everything we do is medical related.”
“The farther you get away from the city the more need there is for that so you can get somebody there early,” Shepard added.
In rural areas volunteer firefighters are often one the first to respond to an emergency situation.
“We’ve been on some pretty horrendous car wrecks,” said Lewis and Clark County Volunteer Fire Department Chief Walter Jester, “If it wasn’t for the training and skills our people work so hard to learn there’s people that wouldn’t be alive today.”
It takes several months of training to reach firefighter level 1 readiness and local chiefs says they’re lucky of they have more than two from the initial 15 that sign up.
Jester said he’s grateful for any time his crew are able to give to serving their community.
“My rules are family first, job second and we’ll take whatever you have left over to donate,” said Jester.
Anyone interested in signing up to be a volunteer firefighter or want to learn more information should contact any of the local volunteer fire departments or the Lewis and Clark Rural Fire Council.
Last year the same fundraiser brought in over $30,000 for volunteer firefighters.