Economic pressures, more training requirements, and waning population – it all adds up to fewer volunteer firefighters and EMTs. The need in Inyo County went public from Olancha and Lone Pine first where a serious lack of EMTs had hurt the volunteer ambulance services associated with the fire departments. Then the push for more volunteers spread countywide. Now, Inyo has a nearly $1 million federal grant to increase volunteers on fire departments. Find out more about this at a series of open houses at fire departments in most communities.
What’s called the SAFER grant program is designed to retain current volunteers and attract new ones through pre-tax benefits like payments on medical visits, care for dependents, contributions to 401Ks, and accident insurance. Officials say that Inyo County’s six fire departments include some 114 volunteers when 170 volunteers are actually needed to effectively respond to the number of calls received.
For Fire Prevention Week, many fire departments will hold open houses where you can enjoy equipment demos, station tours, food and blood pressure checks, plus information on volunteer programs. Open houses in Big Pine and Lone Pine happen Tuesday, October 9th at 6pm. Bishop and Independence open houses take place Wednesday, October 10th at 6pm and Olancha is also Wednesday at 6:30pm. The Southern Inyo Fire House in Tecopa will host an open house October 27th at 1pm. For more info, call 1-855-VOL-FIRE. Lone Pine and Independence will also offer flu shots.
Inyo County’s volunteer fire departments have a lot of territory to cover and need dozens more volunteers. The departments serve nearly 18,000 people over more than 10,000 square miles. All six fire departments now have the new benefit programs through the new federal grant.