Lack of volunteers affects MO fire departments

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The decreasing amount of volunteer firefighters across the Show Me State impacts local departments.
 
Volunteers make up more of Missouri departments than people may realize, and without them departments can lose funding and put citizen’s safety at risk. One local department is directly feeling those effects and is looking to local and state lawmakers for solutions.
 
Devon Maschger never thought he’d end up fighting fires… for free.
 
“I’m from Kansas City, so I’d never even heard of volunteer. I thought it was just all full time,” says Devon Maschger.
 
But his experience as a volunteer at Redings Mill Fire Protection District has been irreplaceable.
 
“It’s a great experience, you get to do some really cool stuff. And you get to meet great guys and get to help out your community,” says Maschger.
 
But he’s been just one of five volunteers the department has seen in the past year. And according to the U.S. Fire Administration, nearly 73 percent of all Missouri firefighters are volunteer.
 
“Previous to that it was neighbors wanting to help neighbors. And we don’t see that much coming through the doors anymore,” says Chief Steve Coats.
 
Chief Coats says there’s about 30 to 40 less volunteers today than a decade ago, a trend the whole country is seeing.
 
“Ultimately in 2017 we went to the taxpayers and asked for a tax increase to be able to hire more paid staff because we just weren’t able to recruit and retain the volunteers,” says Chief Coats.
 
Recent initiatives in the state aim to recruit veterans to become firefighters.
 
“We’ve had a few veterans come through after they’ve gotten out of the service,” says Coats.
 
While other legislation looks to give loan forgiveness to those who volunteer.
 
“I saw it as an awesome opportunity to get my foot in the door and my career started,” says Devon Maschger.
 
Coats says he’s open to anything that can help Redings Mill and its neighboring agencies get the personnel they need.
“Some of those agencies only have one or two volunteers during the daytime, and it’s a real not only a safety hazard to the citizens they’re serving but a safety hazard to those responding too,” says Devon Maschger.
 
Redings Mill has mutual aid agreements with nine other departments in the area so this is important throughout the Four States.

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