Finding volunteer firefighters becoming harder across NC

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CARTHAGE, N.C. (WNCN) – Lots of people in rural areas of North Carolina often rely on volunteer firefighters to help keep them safe.

But finding people to be volunteer firefighters is becoming more difficult.

“Back in the day, you could leave your job, run the fire call, go back to your job and everything would be fine,” said Carthage Fire Chief Brian Tyner. “With the economy, firefighters are having to work one or two jobs just to make ends meet nowadays.”

The majority of firefighters with the Carthage Fire Department are volunteers.

Statewide, it’s becoming more difficult to recruit and retain volunteer firefighters.

It’s a problem that’s catching the eye of State Fire Marshal and Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey.

He was in Moore County Wednesday talking with local firefighters about it.

“We have fewer farms today so we don’t have the farmers that can just leave the farm and go fight a fire,” said Causey.

If a rural district struggles to get volunteer firefighters, it impacts the local fire district’s rating which can cause property insurance rates to rise.

“It makes me wish there were more people volunteering to try and bring it down a little bit,” said Jasper Spivey, owner of Spivey’s Garage and Wrecker Service in Carthage.

State law requires that each volunteer firehouse has to have a minimum number of trained firefighters in order to be considered a volunteer fire department.

There must be at least 20, though state lawmakers just passed a law that would allow volunteer departments to apply for a waiver, dropping that number to 15 if they are having trouble recruiting trained people. The bill is on Governor Cooper’s desk.

Some districts will pay volunteer firefighters some money for each call they go on. Also, some areas are looking to train more people, beginning at the high school level.

“It is tough and we just have to make the best of it,” said Chief Tyner.

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