A number of factors have played a role in fire departments being unable to recruit as many volunteer firefighters as in past years, according to two local fire chiefs.
Caribou Fire Chief Scott Susi noted that throughout the last decade, he has seen a steady decrease in the number of volunteers that his department is able to recruit and retain for long periods of time. Currently, the Caribou Fire Department has 20 volunteers who serve as firefighters on an on-call basis. Although Caribou has one of the larger departments in Aroostook, with 16 full-time firefighters, he fears a shortage of volunteers will occur as his core group of volunteers ages out of the field.
“It’s mostly due to the economic situation,” Susi said. Employers have less people now to do the same work. So when a business owner has someone in a critical position, they’re not going to let them leave to take care of a fire. We still have great relationships with employers, but their numbers have gone down and they need people at work.”