Volunteers in short supply

Councilors on the Dallas City Council recently chastised the Dallas Fire chief for requesting more money in his department, saying that the chief first should recruit more volunteers.

Councilor Micky Garus said he doesn’t think the fire department is investing enough resources, time and energy into finding more volunteers.

Resources, time and energy all mean money, which the fire department is lacking — so much so that they have a difficult time meeting their standards of cover in responding to fires in town.

We don’t think the chief’s request for more money is outlandish. And we wonder if councilors understand the value of time of a volunteer, particularly a volunteer firefighter.

These are men and women who spend a lot of time training — 2,300 hours last year, to be exact. That’s more than three months spent training, spread out among the department’s volunteers.

We’re not talking about an hour a week to read to kindergarteners. Volunteering to save lives and property from fire is a big commitment, and one that some people simply cannot make at this point in their lives. Many people work outside of town, so struggle to respond to fires during the day. Even those who work in town may not have employers willing to dismiss them to fight fires.

Chief Fred Hertel hasn’t asked for the council’s assistance without looking for other sources of revenue first.

The department applies for grants each year for staff and facilities, but competes for those on a national scale, and often doesn’t receive part of the limited funds available. The competition is fierce because departments across the country face the same struggle Dallas Fire & EMS faces — fewer volunteers and more calls for service on limited budgets.

One councilor, Jennie Rummell, said adding paid firefighters doesn’t mean abandoning volunteers and their commitment to service. We agree.

We are grateful for our volunteer firefighters, and acknowledge the benefit of full-time staff in our fire departments. We hope that the council will not be short-sighted on this matter.

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