Neb. Dept. Turns to TV Ads to Recruit Volunteers

OMAHA, Neb. --

Several local volunteer fire departments made a big push to recruit volunteer firefighters.

Ralson Volunteer Fire Department Chief Kyle Ienn said the rough economy had them using creative campaigns to fill their rosters.

The Department took to the airwaves two months ago to showcase the current members of the squad and to appeal for help.

"We can't just sit back any more and wait for them to come knocking on our door," Chief Kyle Ienn said.

Ienn just recently returned from a volunteer firefighter summit in Washington, D.C., and he said the nationwide statistics about volunteer involvement are startling.

"Nationwide, the volunteer firefighters numbers are declining, drastically," Ienn said.

The chief said the economy is largely to blame as it puts the volunteers and the departments in a budget pinch.

Authorities said volunteer departments protect 86 percent of the country.

"They're working side jobs, they're working second jobs, and it's just a busy place nowadays, and people the economy they have to work extra to bring in money, and there's just no time to volunteer anymore," Ienn said.

That's where the advertisements come in. Ienn said the commercials are paid for with federal grant money.

"It definitely worked. In the last 60 days or so in our media blitz that we did, we brought in 118 applications," Ienn said.

"You know, walking down the grocery store, and having somebody come up and say, 'Hey, thanks for going to that call yesterday. Thanks for saving my mom, thanks for helping us out.' That's what you do it for, is for the thanks."

The chief said some of the applicants will be referred to other volunteer departments, too.

Ienn said the department just got another federal grant to do much the same thing in the next four years.

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