Vermont’s volunteer fire departments fear COVID-19 threatens readiness

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The spread of the coronavirus has impacted first responders, especially volunteer fire departments.

According to the United States Fire Administration, over 87 % of fire departments in Vermont are volunteer or mostly volunteer. Al Getler, a firefighter with the South Hero Volunteer Fire Department said they have had to stop all training and recruitment events, which they depend on to maintaqin readiness.

“We need new recruits in our fire departments all over the state of Vermont every single day,” Getler said. “Rescue squads, they need volunteers every day. We really depend on volunteers and recruitment to get our fire departments filled to have ample people to respond and because of COVID 19 we’ve had to cancel training.”

Many volunteers fire departments have also had to cancel or postpone fundraising events. Brad Carriere, the assistant chief at Hyde Park Town Fire Department, said they had to postpone one of their biggest, the annual Calcutta, multiple times.

“We’ve got it scheduled for November so hopefully in November things will let up some so we will be able to have them. Usually we sell 198 tickets and do a dinner for two and then we have a cash raffle after,” said Carriere.

Carriere said his fire department also struggled with the amount of PPE for their firefighters. However, they were able to receive some from the state.

Both fire departments said it’s been tough not being able to help the community in ways they normally would, but they are grateful for all the community’s efforts during such a difficult time.

“We are part of the town number one and number two we are well supported by our community. The donations this year have been actually overwhelming,” said Getler.

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