Lack of volunteers closes Donalda fire station

Only four volunteer firefighters available in Donalda, well below minimum numbers

Donalda fire station has been temporarily closed because of a volunteer shortage.

Stettler Regional Fire Department’s Station 1, which is in the town, will cover for Donalda until more volunteers are recruited.

The Donalda station was down to four volunteers, well below the 12 volunteers recommended by fire underwriters. To operate efficiently, at least 15 volunteers are needed.

“The people we have there are fabulous, but they are just getting burnt out,” said Regional Fire Chief Mark Dennis.

“Having only four members becomes a safety factor,” he said, adding even that small number can’t make it to every call.

Finding enough volunteers is always one of the challenges for rural fire departments and for whatever reason Donalda has been tough to keep staffed. Stettler Regional Fire Department also has stations in Byemoor and Big Valley.

“It’s been going on for a number of years,” said Dennis. “It’s not a new thing.

“We’ve been low on numbers for quite some time.

“Every year we ran a new recruitment program we’ve just never been able to recruit anybody in that area and region.”

Dennis said closing the station means Stettler firefighters will need to make the 25-minute to Donalda if there is a fire call.

“There will be a significant delay,” he said. “It’s really an unfortunate situation,” he said.

“Our goal is to get the word out and hopefully we can turn this around and get it back up and running as quickly as possible.”

Appeals for volunteer firefighters are not uncommon in rural Alberta, partly because of demographics and changing work trends.

“I’ve been doing this for 24 years and I see a trend,” he said.

Residents are becoming more transitory as they follow their jobs. The increasing number of two-income families also leaves less time for people to volunteer.

“Being on the fire department is a big commitment. It has a direct effect on your family and what you can do when you’re on call and all those things.”

Businesses are running leaner than ever, which means staff are less able to drop their work to respond to fires.

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