County needs at least 15 additional volunteer firefighters, chief says

Volunteer firefighters are pictured refilling a fast attack fire unit during a fire call. About 15-20 additional volunteers are needed in the county, according to Fire Chief Garry Berges.

A recent change in the number of first responders available to fight fires in Geary County has spurred a need for additional volunteers.

Deputies from the Geary County Sheriff’s Department previously fought fires alongside volunteer firefighters. But a recent policy change was made — due to training, certification and liability concerns — and deputies will no longer fight fires. That change has necessitated a need for additional volunteer firefighters, Geary County Fire Chief Garry Berges said.

The department currently has 50-55 volunteer firefighters, but Berges said an additional 15-20 are needed. If additional volunteers are not brought into the department, response times and insurance rates there could be affected.

“The faster you get to a fire, the faster you can get a fire under control,” Berges said. “One or two minutes can make a heck of a difference. And if response times get longer, that could affect insurance rates.”

Insurance rates are based on response times, training and equipment, Berges said.

Berges said the department will receive assistance in fighting fires from neighboring agencies, but has concerns about possible scenarios in which multiple fires need attention at the same time.

“We’re good about cooperating with other departments, but especially during the burn season, they’re out fighting fires too,” Berges said. “They’ll help when available, but if they have a fire burning, their section comes first. We just pray that, if we need help, other agencies could come and help.”

There are nine stations throughout the county, with 16 trucks. Those who would like to apply to be a volunteer firefighter can visit the emergency management office, located at 236 E. Eighth St. in Junction City, or call 785-238-1290.

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