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Statewide shortage of volunteer firefighters hits home in Mayville

MAYVILLE, ND (WDAZ-TV) - A local fire chief is calling out for help, and he's not the only one. Across the country and in our states, the trend is troubling. There are more and more fires and fewer people to fight them. Two fires in just two days...

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MAYVILLE, ND (WDAZ-TV) – A local fire chief is calling out for help, and he's not the only one.

Across the country and in our states, the trend is troubling. There are more and more fires and fewer people to fight them.

Two fires in just two days in Mayville. Thankfully everybody got out safely, but it shows a dire need for more volunteer firefighters to protect homes and families like the ones in this community.

Lavon Nelson: “We're sitting inside drinking coffee and the next thing the wife saw is the smoke.” 

Lavon Nelson is the second homeowner in Mayville to have his home catch fire.

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Nelson: “Just overwhelmed, you know. So we quickly got on called 911 got the fire departments.”

Rural communities like Mayville are 100% dependent on volunteer firefighters. And surrounding towns support each other because you never know who can show up.

Lee Brenna, Mayville Fire and Rescue chief: “During the day we take each other calls. Because they're in the same boat.”

Fire departments from Portland, Hatton, and Hillsboro all assisted.

Brenna: “I came from Grand Forks, my assistant chief comes from Northwood. So yeah, you drop things and come."

But that puts the entire region at risk if a fire breaks out elsewhere.

Brenna: “We absolutely need more volunteers. Young people. We need young people."

And those, like Lavon, saw the importance of having willing volunteers drop everything to help their neighbors.

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Nelson: “Very much needed. Especially in a crisis like this. To have a quick response is the name of the game.”

The firefighter shortage reaches far beyond Mayville. According to the National Volunteer Fire Council, the majority of fire departments across the U.S. are all or mostly volunteer.

The number of volunteers is declining while the average age of volunteer firefighters increases. A spokesperson with the National Fire Protection Agency says communities must address the issue.

“The community needs to be aware of it,” said Ken Willette of the National Fire Protection Association. “They have to recognize it, acknowledge it and then look for creative solutions.”

In North Dakota, the State Firefighters Association is launching a campaign to raise awareness about this issue in hopes that more people will volunteer.

Related Topics: MAYVILLEFIRES
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