Rural Blog - Small-town fire departments are short on volunteers and struggling to keep the ranks full. Populations in small towns are aging, on average, "and that’s reflected in those who serve some of the most important public safety chores: fighting fires and answering rescue calls, from highway accidents to heart attacks and slips and falls," reports Paul Hammel of the World-Herald.
Small-town departments in Nebraska and Iowa have deployed several strategies to help fill the ranks, from recruiting high-school-age "cadets" as helpers, reimbursing training costs and paying a small stipend to answer calls, Hammel writes. "As an incentive to volunteer, the Nebraska Legislature passed a law this year granting a $250-a-year income tax credit for those who volunteer for fire and ambulance services. In Iowa, a similar law went into effect in 2013."
Nationally, about 31 percent of firefighters in towns under 2,500 in population are age 50 or older, officials told Hammel.