Jesup Fire Department screens documentary, hopes to attract new volunteers

A Buchanan County fire department is hoping to draw attention to the need for volunteer firefighters.
Published: Jul. 31, 2023 at 6:16 AM CDT
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JESUP, Iowa (KCRG) - “How do you keep a town alive?” The documentary Odd Hours, No Pay, Cool Hat posed that question during a screening Sunday night inside the Jesup Fire Department.

The film’s answer is to have volunteer firefighters, but that’s easier said than done.

“In Jesup, we’ve always had about—we’ve run typically with four to five open slots throughout the years,” said Fire Captain Shawn Even.

John Deere and the National Volunteer Firefighters Council hosted the showing. Organizers say about 70% of the country is protected by volunteer firefighters, with rural areas especially relying on them.

“You have an emergency that you need the Fire Department, if you don’t have anybody to respond, I mean, you might be waiting 35, 40 minutes until somebody else could get there. So if you’re in a true emergency, that’s a really long time to wait,” said Even.

These firefighters added it’s also rural areas that have a harder time getting those volunteers. They said aging departments, less interest, and people moving to bigger cities are just some of the challenges. Another challenge, they said, is simple awareness that departments need volunteers.

“A lot of the communities just aren’t aware that there is the need, it’s a lot of word of mouth,” said Jordan Hoffmann, a volunteer firefighter.

And that’s where the film came in, along with hope that showing it could lead to even just a handful of new recruits.

“One or two additional people for every department can be huge,” said Hoffmann.