MO volunteer fire departments need more manpower

A few helmet rest inside on the New Hamburg, Benton, Commerce Fire Departments Monday. The rural fire district is one of many in Missouri that is seeking more volunteer firefighters. (Source: Nathan Ellgren, KFVS)
A few helmet rest inside on the New Hamburg, Benton, Commerce Fire Departments Monday. The rural fire district is one of many in Missouri that is seeking more volunteer firefighters. (Source: Nathan Ellgren, KFVS)

BENTON, MO (KFVS) - There's an effort right now in Missouri to get more veterans interested in becoming firefighters either full time or as volunteers and that kind of help is needed at many rural fire departments in Southeast Missouri.

For instance the New Hamburg, Benton, Commerce Fire District covers the second largest area in Scott County, but operates with only 15 volunteers on call.

19 year old Nathan Vicenzi has been a volunteer firefighter with the NBC Fire District for two years but will soon leave his post soon to go serve in the US Army as a special forces recruit.

Vicenzi says its common for people to come and go when other priorities come up and thinks the initiative could help his department find other willing volunteers to take his place.

"You always need people for fires, medical emergencies, late night calls, when people are at work, because you're volunteer you don't have everyone all the time," Vicenzi said. "More manpower gives us a lot more people to work with. It helps everyone at. It make more people safer on the fire ground, makes everyone safer inside the house."

Mackenzie Enderle lives in Oran and says she heavily relies on the local fire departments to keep her safe at work and at home.

Last year Enderle's husband almost died in a car crash, and the first people on scene were volunteer firefighters.

"If they wouldn't have been there to help him it could've changed our lives forever," Enderle said. "We have a 3-year old little girl and our child wouldn't of had a dad. So the need is great."

While he was hesitant about joining at first, Vicenzi says the training is a lot easier than people think.

"If you're on the fence you're definitely going to fit in if that is what you're worried about," he said. "If you don't feel comfortable with something they'll help you. They won't let you fall. It's a team effort. No one gets left behind. Everyone is going to complete the task and be safe. Everyone goes home."

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The Missouri Firefighter Veterans Initiative started in 2017 and is a day-long experience that combines physical challenges that firefighters use at work with practical information about careers in the fire service and support resources for veterans transitioning out of the military.

Several trainings will take place at the end of summer and beginning of Fall including August 22 at Fort Leonard Wood; September 15 in Independence; and September 29 in St. Louis.

For more information, and to apply, visit this website.

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