Colorado has a shortage of volunteer firefighters, nearly 3,500, according to numbers recently compiled by Rocky Mountain PBS I-News Even with statewide recruitment efforts underway, smaller agencies may have to find ways to adapt in order to survive.
One of those agencies is the small 14 person Galeton Volunteer Fire Department, northeast of Greeley. The department has been around since the early 50s and has always been volunteer driven.
In many parts of Colorado when you dial 9-1-1 to report a fire, the firefighters who arrive to extinguish it are volunteers. These firefighters have other jobs, and serve half of the state’s population. But Colorado has an ever-shrinking pool of volunteers, leaving many communities at risk.
In the battle against wildfires, the Forest Service often draws on a fleet of air tankers — planes that drop fire retardant from the sky.
But the fleet shrank dramatically in the early 2000s, and by 2012, the Forest Service was woefully low on planes. Now, the agency is quickly increasing the number of planes at its disposal — and modernizing the fleet in the process by adding bigger, faster and more efficient planes.