It’s a tradition almost as old as the republic: Residents of a community banding together to serve as volunteer firefighters and potentially save the lives, homes and possessions of their neighbors.
But in a 21st century society where there are more demands on the daily schedules of breadwinners, the number of volunteer firefighters here and across the state is dwindling.
More than 70 percent of the firefighters in North Carolina are volunteers, mainly in rural communities such as those in Randolph, Guilford and Davidson counties. But the number of new volunteer firefighters is declining 11-12 percent a year, reports the N.C. Association of Fire Chiefs. Guil-Rand Fire Department Assistant Chief Brian Causey has noted the trend at his firehouses serving northern Randolph County and parts of southern Guilford County. The Guil-Rand Fire Department has 40 paid firefighters and about the equivalent number of volunteer positions.