CAVE JUNCTION, Ore.- Across the country, less volunteer firefighters are hitting rural counties hard. With the majority of the country's firefighters working on a volunteer basis, the drop in numbers are forcing departments like the Illinois Valley Fire District to get creative.
Today the Illinois Valley Fire District runs on less than 10 volunteer firefighters, but there used to be 50.
Deputy Chief Jeff Gavlik says, "On a given structure fire we would normally have roughly about 20 firefighters show up to fight that fire. In earlier years. And now of those eight that we have will probably end up with about half typically about 4 to 6 firefighters on that given fire."
The department says it's launching new programs to recruit. The firehouse's doors are opening up to high schoolers in exchange for volunteer staffing. Plus they're also chipping in for its volunteers' college degrees. When there isn't enough funding for local fire departments, it relies on volunteers to get the job done.
Captain Joseph Latva is going on his fifth year volunteering. 18 people graduated from his fire academy class and today only 3 are on the roster.
Latva says, "I mean I live here, why would I want to try and help my neighbors. There's a wealth of lot knowledge here there's a wealth and it's not just around the fire agency, so there's a chance to gain a second family."
If you'd like to volunteer with the Illinois Valley Fire District, you can find the application here.
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