Sunday, July 14, 2024

Shoshone County Fire District evolves recruitment to boost retention

Staff Writer | July 9, 2024 1:00 AM

Shoshone County has revamped its firefighter recruitment process in recent years, focusing on developing volunteers into dependable team members throughout their careers.

Fire District No. 1 Chief John Miller emphasized the importance of consistent care. "People receiving aid from fire and EMS staff need the same quality care. Whether a firefighter is volunteer or full-time, they represent the department," he said.

The district operates with six full-time career positions, three part-time/resident firefighters, and about 16 volunteers. Career members work 48-hour shifts followed by 96 hours off.

"They will spend a third of their year living in our firehouse. This includes holidays, birthdays, anniversaries and more," Miller said.

Volunteer firefighters are crucial to the nation's fire services. The National Fire Protection Agency estimates their time saves localities $46.9 billion annually. However, the path from volunteer to career firefighter is rigorous and time-consuming.

"The community does not know or care if firefighters are volunteer or paid," Miller said. "They have a problem and expect us to have a solution."

In 2019, Shoshone Fire District No. 1 overhauled its recruitment strategy to improve retention and ensure reliable emergency response. This initially led to a dip in volunteer numbers but has since stabilized.

"Our staff (in terms of volunteers) took a dip in 2019-ish due to reshaping the culture and enforcing new minimum standards," Miller explained. "These numbers have risen back up due to recruitment on the college campuses and locally."

The district now requires volunteers to work 12-24 hours monthly and offers a streamlined path to professional firefighting. This includes free EMT training through the Shoshone County Ambulance Service District, though it can take 4-6 months to complete.

By opening volunteer positions to aspiring firefighters from nearby college programs, the district has created a fast-track system for those seeking career opportunities. This approach not only fills immediate needs but also cultivates a skilled, dedicated workforce for the future.

    John Miller
    Shoshone County Fire District No. 1 has changed up its recruitment tactics in the last five years to find more reliable volunteers and full-time firefighters.