Volunteer Firefighter Recruitment May Have Helped Save Homes in Hill Top Fire
SANPETE COUNTY, Utah – There’s something mesmerizing about watching firefighters putting out fires from a helicopter.
Seeing large buckets of water being dropped onto flames over and over again is an important part of the firefighting process.
However, a lot of the hard work, is also done on the ground.
You have probably seen them; firefighters in their green pants, yellow shirts, and yellow helmets heading up a blackened hillside to dig lines and put out fires.
“They’re very important,” said Marty Duitz while standing next to a fire truck outside the Indianola Fire Department.
Duitz is the current fire administrator and former chief of the Indianola fire department and says it has been a challenge the past few years getting volunteer firefighters.
“It is tough, and the problem we have here, especially in the Indianola Valley, is the kids grow up, they turn 18, they don’t want to stay here and farm,” said Duitz.
Although the Hill Top Fire burning in the Indianola Valley in Sanpete County is being fought by mostly professional fire crews at this point, the fight started with volunteers.
“They were on the fire immediately,” said Duitz.
The lack of volunteer firefighters is an issue fire departments all throughout Utah are facing.
Especially in rural areas.
“At one time, we had 16 certified firefighters. Now we’re down to seven,” said Duitz.
With numbers that low, it can be tough to keep small fires from getting big.
“Those volunteer fire departments throughout the state are a critical piece of our wildland fire response,” said Jason Curry, who is a fire investigator and public information officer with Utah’s Division of Forestry, Fire & State Lands. “We get roughly 1200 wildland fires a year in Utah. 97% to 98% of those fires are kept small. The majority of those are dealt with the 911 system who dispatch those local volunteer firefighters.”
That’s part of why, last summer, Indianola advertised and openly recruited for volunteers.
Some of the men and women who signed up are among the volunteers who initially helped fight the Hill Top Fire and save homes.
In fact, Duitz says, this fire has already helped with recruiting future volunteers.
“We usually get something out of these fires. Something good out of these fires,” he said. “We’re hoping by the beginning of next summer, we will have five additional firefighters. That will give us 12 certified.”
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