HASTINGS, Neb. (AP) - Some volunteer fire and rescue squads are
struggling for numbers in rural Nebraska.
Reasons for the decline include older members of the squads
retiring, extensive training requirements and people with busy
lives unwilling to take their place.
For example, the Edgar Volunteer Fire Department is down 12 from
its possible 32 members, the Hastings Tribune reported.
In Superior, city ordinances allow the volunteer fire department
to have 50 members plus a chief. Right now, the squad has 34
members, including Chief John Rogers. Of those, at least three are
older than 65.
The fire department in Hastings is authorized to have 32 reserve
firefighters but has 12. The number of career firefighters in the
city is down three - one from each shift.
Fully staffed departments in a six-county area of Nebraska and
Kansas are the exception, not the rule, Fire Chief Kent Gilbert
said.
"It's a time crunch," Gilbert said. "People are very busy
with work and it's hard to volunteer for most things."
Reserve firefighters in Hastings are paid an hourly wage for
their duty. One reason Hastings does not have a full complement of
firefighters is retention, with career firefighters leaving for
other departments or different careers, Gilbert said.
Holstein Fire Chief Ron Harris said his department for the last
year has been down about eight firefighters.
Hastings Rural Fire Chief Ken Steins is at full staff with 28
firefighters.
"We're an exception to the rule," Steins said. "We've got a
good group of young farm kids."
At Harvard, too, there have been enough firefighters, with 33
currently available, Fire Chief Keith Keller said. The department's
maximum would be 40 firefighters and 10 supplemental.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)