Pavillion’s fire hall sits on the west end of town. (Ernie Over photo)
(Pavillion, Wyo.) – Mayor Gary Hamlin is making an appeal for residents in and around Pavillion to join that community’s fire battalion. At Thursday night’s Fremont County Association of Governments meeting in Lander, Hamlin said Pavillion had already lost its ambulance, and now the fire battalion there was down to only a few members.
“I’m not sure what the ramifications are, but we have an urgent need to get volunteers back into that department. Without firefighters, we would be unable to address issues like the structure protection at the Fairfield Fire near Lander,” Hamlin said. The Pavillion mayor said the two closest fire stations to his town are at Kinnear with the Morton-Kinnear Fire Battalion eight miles south, and the Midvale Fire Battalion nine miles east.
But Pavillion is not the only community in need of volunteer firefighters.
Cindy McMichael, the Volunteer Coordinator at the Fremont County Fire Protection District (FCFPD) headquarters in Riverton said the need is countywide.
“We did some recruitment at the Fremont County Fair and it’s something we always try to do year-around,” McMichael said. “Our District Chief Craig Haslam works on getting new volunteers all across the county.”
Haslam said the process of recruiting new firefighters is a continual process, including word-of-mouth. “We’re looking for people who want to take ownership in their community to provide fire protection for not only themselves, but their neighbors as well,” he said. “We are fortunate in that our retention level is good over a five year span, but we find that some new people don’t stick around that long, people who just move here and such. They don’t have any ownership in the community.”
Haslam said the FCFPD is now paging out firefighters from more than one rural battalion at a time, “so we have more of a force than can get to the scene quicker.” He said with the loss of volunteers, sometimes it takes longer, so this new practice was instituted just recently.
At Pavillion, the FCFPD roster showed five active firefighters with one new one who just signed on and three volunteers in a support role. At Midvale, there are eight active firefighters, one new member coming on board and one in a support role.
“Volunteering requires a lot of time, and in many of our rural areas, people have jobs in town during the day and just aren’t available,” McMichael said. She mentioned Atlantic City as an example. “They have three active firefighters and three people in support roles, folks who can drive the trucks but can no longer fight fires due to their age.”
McMichael also said people who farm in the rural areas of the county “are busy in the summertime in the fields” and can’t aways get away.” Because of that, when a rural fire battalion is dispatched, others will be dispatched as backup, as Haslam noted above. “If we have a call on the Kinnear side of Pavillion, for example, we’ll dispatch out both Pavillion and Morton-Kinnear. If its on the east side of Pavillion, we’ll call out Midvale or Missouri Valley.”
The only fire battalion McMichael said was “strong in numbers” was Lander Rural. “It seems every time we do a recruitment drive, they pick up more firefighters, but every community in the county could use the help.”
Haslam said the FCFPD is lucky in another way that the average time a volunteer spends in the fire service nationally is from 7 to 10 years, “but here the majority of our firefighters have been here between 15 and 20 years. We’re very fortunate.” Haslam noted that the FCFPD has a roster of some 200 volunteers, not all of whom are firefighters. Some are in support roles, he said. “We can always use the help.”
Hamlin acknowledged that Pavillion is not the only rural department in need of volunteers, but he called his town’s need “rather urgent.” ”The mayor said Pavillion “puts on a really good fireworks show the day before the Fourth of July every year, and the fire department assists with that, among other community activities that they traditionally help out with,” Hamlin said. “So it’s not just fighting fires.”
Residents interested in becoming a firefighter in Fremont County can call the Fremont County Fire Protection District at 307-857-3030.