The Trump administration's war on America is taking its toll on firefighter recruitment.
The National Fire Protection Association’s most recent report noted that nearly 70 percent of the nation’s firefighters are volunteers, and 95 percent of these volunteers work in districts with a population of fewer than 25,000 people. However, the rate of volunteer firefighters has fallen from more than eight per 1,000 people three decades ago to about six per 1,000 people at last count. [The Missoulian]Despite adding full time staff Spearditch has just killed five kids in a house fire even as red moocher state South Dakota is the seventh most reliant on federal funding.
“Ambulance services are suffering the same way the fire departments are,” South Dakota Firefighters Association President Charlie Kludt said. “I think there is a lot more of a demand for fire departments to be assisting on medical calls more than what there was in the past.” He estimated that around 70 percent of the department’s calls are not for fires. [Pierre Capital Journal]Veteran fire manager and former gubernatorial candidate Joe Lowe has called South Dakota's current GOP governor incompetent and uninterested in governing.
Of 337 fire departments in South Dakota, 326 were all volunteer, and six were a combination of paid and volunteer, according to a 2013 demographics study conducted by the South Dakota Fire Marshal’s Office. There were just under 7,900 volunteer firefighters, as opposed to 426 paid firefighters. The volunteer force had an average age of 42.3. A review of financial reports, however, show that many departments have needs. Some think that a program similar to one offered to Minnesota’s volunteer firefighters could be a solution. But even that can’t fully compensate for the fact that people are busier with family and work lives. [Jonathan Ellis]Behind the paywalls at the American News Aberdeen is lamenting personnel shortages amid escaped fires set by locals. Its department is tasked with cleaning up streams and lakes.
Bug counters at the Black Hills National Forest are saying its bark beetle outbreak has peaked although dry grasses still plague the region.
Prescriptive fires should have been set weeks ago but South Dakota is still suffering repeated leadership lapses, a century of fire suppression, a decades-long moratorium on prescribed burns, a lack of environmental litigators, GOP retrenchment and the potential for weaponized wildfire blowback from the drone war being conducted by Ellsworth Air Force Base. The BHNF is also expecting an active wildfire season.
New Mexico's volunteer fire departments are essential for rural residents. Public Service Company of New Mexico (PNM) has hired a contractor to trim juniper from under their transmission lines. Wildland fires and local utilities have a long relationship in New Mexico as well as in Montana and South Dakota.
House Bill 4 was passed in January and signed by Gov. Susana Martinez, while Senate Bill 111 is awaiting a vote from the House Appropriations and Finance Committee. Both bills would hand over county and municipal funding intended for public safety and fire protection to the state to redistributed into state agencies, then county and city funds. The Fire Protection Fund would be reallocated into a newly-created fire grant fund within the state’s treasury. Starting in fiscal year 2019 the bill stipulates that “periodic” allotments not to total more than 40.2 percent each year will be taken from the Fire Protection Fund, which pays for county fire services, and deposited in the state’s treasury. The state treasurer would then redistribute the money to counties and cities throughout the state. [State reductions in fire funds a dangerous move]The Turquoise Trail Volunteer Fire District has dispatched teams to this end of Santa Fe County several times including one to an incident here at the ranch.
VFDs are irreplaceable as first responders to unexpected blazes and if the Federal Emergency Management Agency survives a Trump presidency it should convince Congress to make sure the resources are there to sustain rural fire departments.