South Dakota struggling to keep volunteer firefighters

RAPID CITY, S.D. (AP) - Volunteer fire departments across South Dakota are facing difficulty in attracting and retaining volunteers at a time when call volumes are dramatically increasing.

Only five of the 337 fire departments in the state are not fully or partially staffed by volunteers. But as the age of volunteers continues to rise as well as the number of fire and medical emergency calls, the number of volunteer firefighters willing to respond has stayed stagnant.

A National Volunteer Fire Council report says the number of fire department calls has tripled over the past three decades, from around 12 million in 1986 to almost 34 million in 2015.

South Dakota Firefighters Association President Charlie Kludt says recruiting new volunteers is challenging because of increased demands on people's time, as well as the demanding nature of the job.

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