‘The numbers are dwindling’: Central Ky. firefighters discuss firefighter shortage

This is an issue several Central Kentucky fire departments are seeing firsthand.
Published: Aug. 30, 2023 at 5:34 PM EDT
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JESSAMINE COUNTY, Ky. (WKYT) - When we think of first responders, many of us imagine that they will be there for us no matter what, but what happens when a department is short-staffed and has no one to send to an emergency?

This is an issue several Central Kentucky fire departments are seeing firsthand.

“I wouldn’t call it an epidemic, but it kind of is,” said Wilmore Fire Department Captain and Training Officer Josh Day. “Trying to find volunteer firefighters along with career firefighters; the numbers are dwindling.”

Day said a generation gap may be to blame.

“The different generation we’re seeing now growing up, it’s more of a “why” generation. They want to know why they’re doing this or why they need to be doing this, and it’s to help people. It’s to help the citizens. Being a volunteer fire department, we’re not here for the paycheck. We’re here because we like doing the job,” he said.

Day added that training requirements may also play a part in the shortages.

“There’s a lot of training that goes in it. It’s not the 1970s ′s and ‘80s any more where anybody can just walk in from the street, and we’ll give you a coat and hat.” Day said.

Jessamine County Fire District Chief Danny Eades said this problem is putting a strain on his department, but luckily, he can call on other departments to help.

“We have automatic mutual aid with Nicholasville Fire Department, and we work with mutual aid with Wilmore Fire Department also, so very common,” Eades said. “We also back up Jessamine County EMS on a daily basis, so we’ve all come together and done a good job of supporting one another, but there is a need for personnel.”

Chief Eades added that his department, along with other local agencies, are working to find a solution.

“What avenues can we take, what benefits or pay, what can we do to increase the people that are interested? It’s a discussion that is quite often happening,” Eades said.