There are more than 25,000 firefighters statewide and nowhere near enough volunteers at departments who need them.
More than a dozen departments are part of a federal grant to pull new members in, but the need persists. Eyewitness News took a look at just how low the numbers are in Haddam.
On any given day, between the hours of 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., there are at most, a handful of available firefighters in Haddam.
“I’m a driver of the apparatus,” Haddam resident Rick Annino, who is a 37-year volunteer firefighter, said. “Sometimes, I'll drive the six miles to get here and I’ll be the only one in the truck when it leaves.”
Annino is one of about six to eight firefighters available during the day out of the 54-member volunteer department. Most members work day jobs and recruitment has sagged.
“It’s very tough,” Haddam Fire Lt. John Kuzminski said.
Even at full strength, 54 is well below the 70 the department would like.
“You have to go out and find who want to put themselves in harm’s way,” Kuzminski said.
While the lack of firefighters, a big problem is they also need volunteers to monitor calls from the radio room.
Kyle Kuchyt is a six year firefighting veteran, who juggles college classes and firefighting.
“If you really want to do you can make it happen,” Kuchyt said. “But it is very tough and it puts more of a workload on the guys who do come.”
Kuchyt said firefighting is tough, but worth the effort in his mind.
“It’s always nice helping people, who need help the most at that time,” Kuchyt said.
The volunteer shortage is a state-wide issue, according to the International Fire Chief’s Association,
The Connecticut Fire Chief’s Association was awarded a federal grant in 2014 to help with recruitment.
Through aggressive advertising, school visits, events and a social media blitz, the 15 departments taking part have added 236 new members and are still going.
The following 15 departments are participating in the grant:
Anyone looking to become a volunteer firefighter should call 1-800-Fire-Line or click here. There is expected to be a statewide open house about volunteering firefighting on April 9.
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