Calcasieu Parish Fire Departments are facing a volunteer firefighter shortage

KPLC 7 News Nightcast - March 30, 2019 - Volunteer Firefighter

LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - Across the nation, nearly 70 percent of all firefighters are volunteers.

Here in the Lake Area, departments say they’re experiencing a volunteer shortage.

Dean Lappe is the Chief of the Houston River Fire Department. He said there’s a shortage not just in his department but across Calcasieu Parish.

“Right now, my roster is sitting at about 19 people, and normally we like to keep a roster at about 25," Lappe said.

It’s a message that’s echoed by Todd Parker, chief of the Ward 6 Fire Department.

“When I got on the fire department in 1991, we had 59 volunteers and we ran about 80 calls per year," Parker said. "We’re up to 230 calls a year, and now, I have 20 volunteers.”

Lappe said it takes dedication and hard work to become a volunteer firefighter.

“We’re gonna get you a firefighter 1 level, which is a 40-hour course, to get you there," Lappe said.

The training ranges from putting out massive fires, to rope and ladder rescues and more.

Once you complete your 40 hours, Parker said that’s when the real work begins.

“At two o’clock in the morning when the alarm goes off, that volunteer has to get up and go to the station, and get the truck and respond,” Parker said.

While it’s not always easy, firefighters at the training said it’s always worth it.

“One of the things we always try to do is salvage anything that we can for them. And just those few memories that we’re able to bring out and keep for them definitely makes it worth it. That moment when they see that not all is lost; that little bit of hope that is still there," said William Dever, a volunteer with the Houston River Fire Department.

If you think you have what it takes, Chief Lappe said to call you local fire station and sign up for the next training day.

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