Oronoco Fire Department and First Responders in need of new recruits

(ABC 6 News) – The number of people willing to join volunteer fire departments and first responders has gone down in recent years.

To help combat staffing shortages in Oronoco, they’ve gotten more creative with their recruitment efforts by holding events for families in the community.

“We’ve been very fortunate that in the past two years we’ve added ten firefighters and 13 first responders, but through heavy recruiting and doing different things like this,” said Johann Sonnenberg, the Training Officer for both the Oronoco Fire Department and First Responders.

The fire department currently has 23 firefighters and 24 emergency medical responders, but they’re still short-staffed.

They’re hoping to add a few more to each team, but with recruitment comes challenges.

These include the time consuming task of receiving the training and certifications necessary for the job, as well as the unpredictable nature of the work first responders do.

“We’re always on call. We’re volunteer, but say you’re sitting down and you’re eating supper with your family and your pager goes off. Well, there you go,” said Sonnenberg. “Or it’s in the middle of the night, you’re asleep in bed and your pager goes off and you’re out.”

Because the commitment to the job takes time away from families, the event Wednesday was also a way to give the volunteers some of that family time back.

People were encouraged to bring their kids and show them how much fun being a firefighter can be.

It’s already inspired many kids, like seven-year-old Ellie Elizabeth, who wants to be a firefighter when she grows up, “because my dad used to work as a firefighter.”

The kids got a chance to spray a real fire hose under the supervision of one of the firefighters.

When it got too hot, the kids could go inside to jump in the bouncy house or compete in the coloring contest.

“When I was a kid, I asked my parents, I carried around a fire hose like nonstop, and now I get to do this,” said Sonnenberg.

Despite the recent challenges to recruitment, the process to become a volunteer firefighter or first responder is actually very simple.

If you have an interest in joining, all you need to do is contact the Oronoco Fire Department or First Responders and they can walk you through their application and training process.

You can visit oronocofire.com or email oronocofiredepartment@gmail.com and oronocofirstresponders@gmail.com.