Running a lot of mutual aid calls over the past few weeks – and with a corps of just a dozen firefighters – the Farmington Fire Department is looking for some new volunteers.
“I am so down on manpower, I can’t afford to send three people out of my district,” Fire Chief Conni Bailey said on Thursday, noting that Farmington hasn’t been able to serve on any strike teams to battle wildfires around the state. “We have just had a lot of mutual aid calls, last month we had 38 calls, that is so unusual for us, if we get 18 a month, that’s high.”
Nearly half those calls, about 45 percent, Bailey explained, haven’t been in the Farmington district, but rather outside their borders with mutual aid provided to departments including Linden, Lathrop, Escalon, Stanislaus County, Calaveras County and Collegeville.
Down to a dozen volunteers, Bailey said she is actively recruiting, looking for more.
“Volunteers need either their EMT or First Responder, either one, and their CPR card,” she said.
The small, rural volunteer department doesn’t have the ability to underwrite the training required for those prerequisites and it also takes time, Bailey said, so seeking volunteers that already have their CPR card and either the First Responder or EMT designation is key.
What the department can provide, she said, is that field experience so necessary for volunteers to gain a foothold in the business, as well as an affiliation with a fire department.
“I will be glad to be a stepping stone if they will commit at least two years to this department,” Bailey said.
Affiliation with a department is also required in order to get into a Fire Academy, she pointed out, so volunteers looking to enter the field can serve time with Farmington and have the affiliation needed to eventually get into an academy.
“If they want field experience, if they want to step up to get to a fulltime paid firefighter position, I will get their training,” Bailey said of providing the ‘on-the-job’ coursework that could prove invaluable for volunteers wanting to pursue a career in the field.
Bailey said Farmington is also looking into providing a ‘sleeper program’ so qualified volunteers that live far out of the area could do some shift work in the community, staying at the firehouse while they work their shifts.
“I need people I can depend on, those that care about the community, even if they live outside the area,” Bailey said. “The ones I have here now are community-minded, they live here.”
Applications are welcome from throughout the region, she said, as the department looks to beef up its volunteer corps. Contact Chief Bailey at the fire station, 209-886-5321, for more information.
“I have put signs out, I have put it on my big (message) board outside the station, applications accepted,” the chief added. “If you have your First Responder or EMT and your CPR card, then come and talk to me.”