East Fork unveils new volunteer effort
After several years trying to maintain its traditional firefighting volunteer force, the East Fork Fire Protection District is establishing a program to train volunteers in support roles.
East Fork Fire Chief Tod Carlini said the program would train volunteers to operate water tenders, support incident needs, and respond to wildland fires.
“Coming off the heels of the Topaz Fire, the need for volunteers for wildland firefighting and operating water tenders was dramatically reinforced,” Carlini said.
More than half of East Fork’s career staff can’t afford to live in the community they serve, Carlini said, which means that they are not immediately available for emergency call back on critical events.
“Staffing the logistical needs of an incident or being able to add trained wildland fire responders will be our primary focus with this program,” Carlini said.
In the past, the district conducted expensive training for volunteers, who would leave the area to attain employment as career firefighters elsewhere.
“We can’t continue to be the entry level training academy for other agencies” Carlini said. “The cost benefit to the district is simply not there.”
The new program recognizes two categories, logistical firefighter and support participant. The district is hoping to recruit 40 new volunteers under the program and see a 75 percent retention rate a year later.
Those who qualify as logistical firefighters would provide needs at incidents but also perform fire suppression operations on wildland fires.
In order to participate in wildland fire suppression, additional training and a “red card” would be necessary.
Logistical volunteers would have to complete an application, complete background check, undergo physicals in accordance with state law and complete a logistical academy.
They would receive worker’s compensation coverage as a firefighter and specialized training in those specific areas of logistical support. Once certified at this level, volunteers would be required to maintain training requirements and participation levels.
Logistical volunteer duties would include, squad response and operation, water tender response and operations, general incident support, SCBA support and wildland firefighting.
Less intensive training would be required for volunteers who become support participants.
Those volunteers would not respond to emergencies, but would maintain fire stations, care for apparatus and work in areas including community risk reduction, fuels management program, fundraising and publicity, recruitment and marketing, fire hydrant testing and painting and emergency management.
Support volunteers would apply, complete a background check and complete a basic support academy. They would receive worker’s compensation coverage as a general volunteer, and specialized training in those specific areas of support.
Once certified at this level, minimum required training requirements and participation levels would be required to maintain support qualified position status
“The district is geographically challenged,” Carlini said. “We provided service over 650 square miles and our call volume is escalating at a rate of 3- 4 percent per year. We staff 19 paid positions per day between five staffed stations.”
The district will be conducting a full recruitment effort as part of the Carson Valley Days celebration, which is honoring the first responder this year. In addition to having a presence in the annual parade, the district will be hosting events and recruitment information and opportunity at Lampe Park following the parade.
For more information, contact the District Office at 775-782-9040 or visit the District’s website at eastforkfire.