Call goes out for volunteer firefighters

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By Vicky Gits

If you live in Evergreen and always wanted to be a firefighter, now is the time to apply for a spot in the volunteer fire department.

The department is looking to beef up the volunteer force with new recruits, and the application deadline is Nov. 1.

“Most people don’t even know Evergreen Fire/Rescue consists of people like your next-door neighbor, an engineer, a truck driver or local small-business owner,” said Mike Bleidl, training coordinator.

“People need to be constantly reminded this is a volunteer fire department because of the state-of-the-art facilities and equipment and the way we do things. We have a paid chief, fire marshal, medics and communications staff, but the operational firefighters are volunteers,” Bleidl said.

Being a volunteer is a great way to get involved in the community, he said.

“You will likely at some point be helping out a neighbor,” said Bleidl, who owns a window and door company in Evergreen and has been a firefighter for four years.

Volunteers receive essentially the same training as professional firefighters. The school is four months long and takes a couple of evenings a week, plus a couple of half-days on Saturdays. It is designed to accommodate someone with a full-time job. The department provides all of the equipment and clothing at no cost.

There is no age limit, but volunteers have to pass a walk/run test, be able to pull a hose line, drag a dummy, strike a sledgehammer and raise a ladder, among other things.

Bleidl is hoping to recruit between 15 and 20 recruits for the next training class, with the goal of getting the force up to 100 from the current 70.

“We don’t get the big numbers we used to,” Bleidl said. There were large classes after 9/11 and the Hayman Fire in 2002, but since then enrollment has declined. The last class started with nine and finished with only six.

Once on the force, volunteers are expected to respond to six to eight calls per month. Some last only 20 to 30 minutes. Others could last two or three hours. The typical firefighter respondes to 75 calls per year. Of the 2,000 annual calls, 70 percent are medical/rescue and 30 percent fire. The average is three to six actual working structure fires.

Participation entitles volunteers to a small monthly pension after retirement.

To apply to be a firefighter:

Visit www.evergreenfirerescue.com or contact Bleidl at mbleidl@evergreenfirerescue.com.

Everegreen Fire/Rescue facts

• Evergreen Fire/Rescue is a taxpayer-supported agency consisting of 38 paid staff and 70 volunteer firefighters who together provide emergency services to about 18,000 homes.

• The Evergreen Volunteer Fire Department is a nonprofit 501c4 organization whose members consist of the 70 volunteers affiliated with Evergreen Fire/Rescue.

• The Evergreen Fire Protection District is a special district authorized to tax residents for the purpose of supporting a fire service and emergency rescue (ambulance) agency. Operations are funded by a 7.68-mill levy on assessed valuation.

• The five-member elected board of the Evergreen Fire Protection District sets the policy for Evergreen Fire/Rescue. Elections are held every two years.

• The fire department’s annual budget in 2007 was $4.2 million

• EFR answers 2,100 calls per year and protects a 120-square-mile area with 40,000 residents.

• The average monthly operating cost of fire protection and emergency service, not including capital expense, was $19 per household, based on 18,000 households, according to the treasurer’s report for November 2007.