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Volunteer firefighter creates survey to understand severe shortage

CBS 21

A Millersville University professor, who is also a volunteer firefighter, is trying to figure out why volunteers are getting harder and harder to recruit.

At one point, Pennsylvania had over 250,000 volunteer firefighters. That number is now down to about 45,000.

It's estimated that every volunteer firefighter saves taxpayers $6 billion in the Keystone State.

"We just had an open house a month and a half ago, and we spent thousands of dollars. And we had, over two days, eight people show up," Blue Rock Fire Commissioner Duane Hagelgans said.

That's when Hagelgans created a survey that is going out to hundreds of fire chiefs and volunteers.

He knows the common complaints, including that it takes so many hours to train now. The number of fire calls has also gone up, while fire companies are constantly forced to raise money for equipment.

"We are now government funded and the goal was if you didn't have to fundraising but that would help and that would increase your numbers

"The gripe I hear most of my fire companies are the silly little alarms, like fire alarms at big factories, things like that, as well as fundraising," volunteer Nathan Yerges said.

Hagelgans is hoping to get the real facts about what's behind the shortage.

"If I could get 1,000 responses, doesn't seem like a big number, but for surveys for this it really is," Hagelgans said.

These are the surveys Hagelgans is hoping to learn more from:

Fire Chief survey

Firefighter survey

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