Volunteer firefighters protect about half of Colorado’s residents, with solely volunteer departments being responsible for about 70 percent of the state’s land surface, and they are significantly understaffed, reports 9news.com.
The Colorado State Fire Chiefs Association estimates that Colorado is short 3,500 volunteers in meeting National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) standards. That would require an increase of more than 40 percent to the present force.
“Generally, all fire departments that have volunteers need more volunteers,” said Garry Briese, executive director of the fire chiefs association.
Like their career counterparts, volunteers are expected to respond at all hours of day and night, often over extended distances, and in all weather conditions. They face the same obstacles, inherent health risks and physical dangers. The difference is that they don’t get paid.
There are 198 all-volunteer departments in Colorado serving more than 450,000 residents, and an additional 137 agencies that are a combination of career and volunteer firefighters. These “hybrid” stations serve 2.2 million residents, and 33 of them have only one or two paid firefighters.
To give perspective to the size and shape of all volunteer fire departments against their vast responsibilities, they average nine firefighters per 1,000 residents and six per 100 square miles, an area about two-thirds the size of Denver.
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