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Volunteer fire departments still struggling with staffing

Cave Spring Volunteer Fire Department is looking for new recruits

ROANOKE COUNTY, Va. – The people who help community members in an emergency are struggling to get enough help of their own.

It's an issue impacting volunteer fire departments across the country, including many in southwest Virginia.

The Cave Spring Volunteer Fire Department is all too familiar with it. After a successful recruitment campaign last year, it finds itself facing another volunteer shortage.

"We need additional people just to make sure things work," Cave Spring Volunteer Fire Department Chief John Chambliss said.

The department is wrapping up a big recruitment campaign with the goal of getting 15 new applicants by Tuesday. Yet, it has only received six.

"There’s sort of a natural turnover in personnel, particularly in summertime when people sometimes move to other jobs or finish up school and so forth," Chambliss said.

In a similar campaign last year, they successfully recruited 15 volunteers, yet only seven graduated from the academy.

"Sometimes after they have come and ride along with us for a few times or see what the physical requirements happen to be, some are discouraged and fall away from that point," Chambliss said.

Cave Spring protects a large area: 45,000 homes and businesses. Low staff could impact response times, though, and it's not just that.

"We do backup work also for other stations around the county. And because of the specialized equipment that we have around here, we're called upon to assist because of tankers or ladder trucks or brush fires, whatever the case might be," Chambliss said.

The chief says it's hard to get people willing to make the commitment, but WSLS 10 spoke with some new recruits who say it's worth it.

"It’s something that I’ve wanted to do. It looks like it would be a worthwhile volunteer activity and I feel like if I’m healthy and I’m physically able, then it's my duty to be involved in the community," Tracy Shearer, who’s applying to be a recruit, said.

"I want to help people. That's why I went with the criminal justice degree.. And what a perfect opportunity to volunteer to help people. Money and all that, that doesn't matter to me. I just want to go out and help people," Stephen Fairbrother, who’s applying to be a recruit, said.

Cave Spring will still accept applications, but need them within the next couple days for volunteers to start at the academy in August. To find out how to apply, click here.