WAITSBURG — Fires don’t put themselves out, and people needed to extinguish blazes are hard to come by in rural communities.
Columbia-Walla Walla County Fire District 2, stationed in Waitsburg, is one such example. The district provides fire suppression and rescue services to 1,730 residents over roughly 3,400 acres in parts of Columbia and Walla Walla counties surrounding Waitsburg, according to the agency’s website.
“There’s just not enough,” District 2 Fire Commissioner Debbie Fortner said in reference to their team of volunteers. “We need more people.”
The district is reaching out to recruit new volunteers. Members conducted an open house after Waitsburg Celebration Days earlier this month, and now the agency will bring trucks to Spark in the Park, an event happening in nearby Prescott on June 8.
Fortner said she hoped the Prescott event would spark more interest than the open house, where “it was pretty quiet.”
The park event also is an opportunity to recruit for any volunteer department needing help, she said, which was important. District 2 has about 12 volunteers, she said, half of whom are active, and several are retiring or have National Guard commitments approaching.
“There’s always an underlying need (for volunteers),” Fortner said, adding she hoped the department could get 50.
“They’re not required to respond,” she said of volunteers. “When they’re at work, they can’t respond. Most work in Walla Walla, and if something happens at night, they’re in bed asleep. If they respond, they have to go to work the next morning. I’m not tough enough to do that.”
Fortner plans to have an information booth at Spark in the Park so those interested can fill out an application and return it to the fire department of their choice. The event runs from 1-8 p.m. on that Saturday at Fieldview Park in Prescott.
Commitments vary depending on the volunteer, Fortner said, but training is required. The department coordinates with Columbia County Fire District 3 for training at 7 p.m. on Mondays. Fortner said people can carpool to those trainings by meeting at 6:30 p.m. at the District 2 station (234 Main St., Waitsburg) and riding in a fire vehicle to the District 3 station (111 Patit Road, Dayton).
For those who want to commit further, Walla Walla Community College offers a three-month course to become certified as an emergency medical technician, she said, usually from September to December. Participants take national and state tests and continuing education courses. For more information, visit ubne.ws/2JObyWv.