Firefighters try to beef up volunteer corps

The Golden Valley Fire Department needs volunteers to help protect the community of approximately 5,000 people.

The department has 15 firefighters, including three captains, for three shifts 24 hours a day, working with eight volunteers at two stations, Chief Harold Nystedt said.

Nystedt said he would like to have 30 volunteers to call with a third of them available at a moment's notice.

At 172 square miles, the fire district is sparsely dotted with homes and connected by mostly dirt roads or worse.

Not all volunteers would have to be firefighters.

Volunteers also are needed to run errands, pick up firefighters who ride along on an ambulance to the hospital, or provide water, sodas and snacks to firefighters at larger fires.

During a large structure fire, firefighters can feel worn out in less than an hour.

Wildland fires also are labor intensive, and because of drought, fire departments are bracing for a dangerous fire season, Nystedt said.

"It won't be long when we'll have more vehicles than people," he said.

Nystedt added that firefighting volunteers are more likely to be hired permanently by the department.

Many current paid firefighters started with the department as volunteers.

Because of increased drug-related crime in Golden Valley, and increased tractor-trailer traffic on State Highway 68 because of the Hoover Dam detour, firefighters are responding more often to accidents on the highway or calls for medical assistance.

Firefighting volunteers would need to attend a nine-month fire academy for state certification.

Fire academies are held once a year in Kingman, Bullhead City or Lake Havasu City.

Volunteers also would need six months of emergency medical technician training.

The training is usually held at night or on weekends.

About 75 percent of the calls the department receives are for medical responses.

The department provides fire protection service to Golden Valley's two schools, commercial businesses along Highway 68 and residences.

However, about 49 percent of Golden Valley is vacant property.

Tougher federal laws require that before a minimum of two firefighters can enter a burning building, there must be at least two more firefighters stationed just outside, plus a fifth firefighter manning the pumps on the fire engine.

Beginning this year, River Medical Inc.

assigned an ambulance full time at Station 2 on Egar Road.

A two-person crew is on duty 24 hours a day, seven days a week at the fire station.