Many Coast Fire Departments Drastically Understaffed

Contributor: Mark Armstrong
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Updated: 2/04 4:02 pm
The community of Cuevas, just north of Long Beach, has been served by its local Volunteer Fire Department for over 50 years. Now, in the past year, the fire house is at its lowest number of personnel ever. The department is calling on locals who are able to volunteer to do so. It’s hard to imagine watching helplessly as a fire consumes your neighbor’s home. That's what happened to Alan Weathford seven months ago. Weatherford says, “It was devastating to see my neighbor’s house burn and to see what he went through.” Now Weatherford volunteers with his local fire department in Cuevas. He wants to be prepared to help the next time tragedy strikes. Like many Coast communities, Cuevas relies on its local Volunteer Fire Department to respond to emergencies. But since Hurricane Katrina, there has been a steady decline in the number of trained personnel available. Robert Dean, the Cuevas Fire Chief, says, “I don't think people are aware that our fire department is only staffed by one paid guy during the day from 8 to 4 o’clock. Then after 4 and on the weekends, our department is staffed completely by volunteers.”

At any given time, the Cuevas Fire Department only has six certified personnel on hand to respond to both medical and fire emergencies. Chief Dean would like to see that number rise to at least 15. Dean insists that his department is up to the task of protecting the community, but he needs more than a skeleton crew to do so. Dean also says, “A better response time. A faster response time. Having people trained that can not only fight fires, but can run medical calls for us.” After seeing what happened to his neighbor’s home, Weathford knows the importance of volunteering. Weatherford closes, “I think as a community, we have to step up to the plate and obviously volunteer where we need volunteers.” If you would like to volunteer with the Cuevas Fire Department, submit your application to the station on Fire Station Road in Long Beach. You don't even have to reside within the community, just nearby. Free training classes are offered in the evening and on the weekend.
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