Shortage of volunteer firefighters

COLONIAL HEIGHTS, VA (WWBT) - Fire departments across the commonwealth are facing a major shortage of volunteers. Now, there's a statewide push to recruit and retain volunteers in twenty fire departments, including Colonial Heights.

16-year-old Hayden Zinn just joined Colonial Heights Fire & EMS as a volunteer. In fact, today is his first day in uniform.

"It's helping out in the community and keeping me out of trouble and it gives me something to do when I don't have anything else to do," said Zinn.

The department is hoping to recruit and retain more folks like Zinn, but its facing a growing problem -- a shortage of volunteers.

"A lot of good volunteers come in and they're looking to get a career and they get hired in other jurisdictions. It's a constant battle to keep good volunteers," said Deputy Fire Chief David Salot.

A lack of volunteers can put an extra burden on responders. It could also add to response times for help.

"Any shortage of personnel volunteer or career can impact outcomes on calls. To have the proper staffing levels just makes us more effective at fighting fires," said Salot.

Colonial Heights and several other departments are taking part in a statewide push to recruit and retain volunteers. It's called "Do you have what it takes." Participants have received federal dollars to promote and attract perspective volunteers.

"We have a lot of brochures and mailers we've sent out to our citizens. We're also on facebook and twitter," said Salot.

As for Zinn, he says he's committed, for the long run, to lending a helping hand.

"I'm not just doing it for the meanwhile. I want to go all the way through and get to the top," said Zinn.

The study will last for one year -- then the fire departments will see how well those recruitment techniques are working. If you're interested in learning more about becoming a volunteer firefighter contact your local department.

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