CANYON, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — The Canyon Fire Department, which is comprised of both volunteer and career firefighters, addressed their staffing shortage.
Fire Chief Dennis Gwyn has been with the department since 1986 and has seen a drastic decline in the volunteer firefighter roster going from approximately 45 to now having 19.
On Dec. 5, the department received approval to apply for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response Grant Program (SAFER). The grant is meant for departments to increase capacity in their community, according to their website.
“Volunteer base seems to be shrinking, call volume is increasing,” said Gwyn. “So you can see that we have to supplement somewhere and the way to do that is through career firefighters on staff 24/7. If the grant gets approved that will allow us to go to 24/7 staffing in 2024.”
The application period for the grant is expected to happen during the beginning of 2023. Once an application is submitted, it will go through a review process. If the grant is rewarded, CFD would likely find out during the summer months, according to Gwyn.
The volunteerism shortage can be attributed to multiple factors including a larger time commitment and more training requirements.
“As far less staffing that would be on our volunteer side,” said Gwyn. “Volunteerism is down throughout the United States, not only in the fire service but if you look in your civic organizations or anybody that utilizes volunteers you see a downward trend and it’s really hitting the fire service pretty hard.”
For Canyon residents interested in becoming volunteer firefighters, applications are available at the department and can be picked up from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Applicants will then go through an interview process.
Gwyn continued, “We go through the interview process and make sure that the individual knows that they’re getting themselves into. Because there is a lot of training involved, in fact nearly six to eight months’ worth of training before someone coming in without any training, experience or certification is allowed to start making calls.”
According to Gwyn, some of the benefits of being a member of the fire department includes it being a rewarding career, with each shift bringing something different. As well as the benefits that come from the city including the retirement plan.