EMTS, Firefighters needed

AMBOY — Many moons ago, there wasn’t room in a fire station for all who wanted to be a firefighter or an EMT (emergency medical technician) because so many wanted to be a part of the department.

Recent moons have seen a different situation as fire departments are searching for firefighters, EMTs, and first responders at an alarming rate.

And it’s not just small towns, it’s a nation-wide problem. 

However, small town fire departments like Amboy and Sublette are seeing the lack of staff and feeling the strain.

“We need people as soon as possible. We’re at that fine line of where our services could be curtailed, and longer response time based on not enough firefighters and EMTs in a lot of small cities throughout the nation are going through this including Amboy and Sublette,” said Jeff Bryant Sr., Amboy Fire Department Fire Chief since 2013 and a member of the company since 1988. 

“From our vantage point, Amboy and Sublette have a great working relationship and we respond automatically (through Automatic Aid), but most of the time the companies responding from different towns are bringing less people because they’re short. 

“It’s an epidemic. In modern day terms, when does it become a pandemic? When does it get to a point where we can’t control it? I think the community supports both Amboy and Sublette really well. I don’t know if we do a poor job of letting people know we need their help as firefighters, EMS, and both.”

Amboy has a federal grant that is set aside to train members of Emergency Medical Services.

Bryant Sr. said Amboy has the funding to put firefighters and EMTs through school and the department incentivizes volunteers for coming out on calls and going through training. 

“If they want a second job just for some spending money. We have that. We hope that our fire department would be a great place to land,” Bryant Sr. said. “We have a gym that is opened to members and their family. There are 85 departments in our association, and we’re regionally known for our fire school, so there are more opportunities.

“We can put a band-aid on the problem, but there are people trying to regionalize the approach. Personally, I don’t want to regionalize EMS response. We want to keep it local.”

Kevin Schultz, Sublette Fire Department Fire Chief since Jan. 2020 and a member of the department for 35 years, believes becoming involved with the local fire department is a sign of community pride, civic duty, and something to be proud of.

If someone is scared of fire, they never have to enter an engulfed structure. There are many jobs currently unmanned at fire departments all over the country.

“It’s a nationwide problem because 75-80 percent of fire departments across the country are volunteer,” Schultz said. “More and more people are not volunteering like they used to and it is becoming very difficult to find enthusiastic, young residents to join the fire department. I believe being a volunteer for the community shows community pride and a passion for helping people in any situation. 

“People will say they can’t do blood, or they can’t do something else, but we have a job for anyone who wants to volunteer. If blood turns your stomach, you could drive an ambulance, hold a pump, or help around the station. A person doesn’t have to be involved with a fire. They don’t only have to be at the station. We will find jobs that suits each volunteer. We’ve found very important supportive roles for anyone who wants to help.”

Both fire departments are looking for volunteers no matter what the age or how busy the schedule because the company can work around full-time jobs or picking up children from school.

Sublette was begging citizens to be EMTs, firefighters, and first responders five to six new faces joined in the last year.

The added bodies were awesome, but Schultz and Sublette always need more.

Byrant Sr. set a wish list of getting four to five people to join as firefighters and four to five people to become EMTs. On an annual basis, four to five people for EMS is also on the wish list.

“Firefighter wise, we just need some new blood. Most of us are 1980s high school graduates that are still frontline people,” Bryant Sr. said. “It would be nice to get some people from the 2000s as firefighters. They would be younger, and they’d have every opportunity to learn what they need to learn, so one day, the department could be turned over to them to run.”