Fire officials seek motherly touch while addressing volunteer shortage

MANHEIM, Pa. (WHTM) – Volunteer firefighters are needed in Lancaster County, as is the case in most volunteer fire departments around the country.

Earlier this year, the Lancaster County Fire Chief’s Association launched a multi-pronged recruitment campaign to address the shortage. This Mother’s Day, they’re reaching out to a group they say are especially qualified to volunteer in fire services.

Jennifer Miller wears a lot of suits. One of them is that of a volunteer firefighter for the Lancaster Township Fire Department.

“Sometimes we run a month of thirty or forty calls,” Miller said.

On top of that, she has a full-time job.

“I work night shift at the county dispatch center,” she said.

All the while, Miller has a third job where she’s never off duty.

“I’m a single, full-time mom,” Miller said as she introduced her son, Calvin.

Moms like Miller exist all over Lancaster County.

“I am an EMT,” Nissa Stoltzfuss said. “I am a volunteer at Gordonville Fire and EMS.”

Then there’s Tiffany Yorgensen. She introduces herself like this: “I am a stay at home mom, and I volunteer for Middle Creek Search and Rescue.”

But Duane Hagelgans with the Lancaster County Fire Chiefs Association says there just aren’t enough of them.

“The moms are very good because they’re just used to dealing with stress, right?” Hagelgans said.

As part of a years-long, multi-pronged campaign to get 200 more firefighters in Lancaster County, this week the association is focusing on women and moms. Hagelgans says women make up less than ten percent of the county’s 67 departments.

“Not everybody runs into burning buildings,” he said.

Leslie Fritz at the Columbia Fire Department is a good example.

“Up until I started having my kids, I became less of an active firefighter, more in the fundraising and fire safety education side of it,” Fritz said.

“It can be very challenging, very difficult. But also can be really rewarding,” Stoltzfuss said.

It’s a reward moms see most when the fire uniform comes off.

“Not sweating the small stuff as much,” Stoltzfuss said.

It shows most when the mom uniform is back on.

Yorgensen’s daughter, Olivia, was clear about what she’s learned from her mom.

“That we should help people who are in need,” she said.

If you are interested in volunteering, go to www.becomeafirefighter.org.

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