‘It’s a problem:’ Grafton FD, others desperately seek volunteer paramedics

Grafton Fire Chief William Rice

GRAFTON -- In emergency situations, we count on paramedics and EMTs, and fire departments in Wisconsin and across the country are in dire need of volunteers.

"It's a problem all over metro Milwaukee, all over the state and all over the country," said Grafton Fire Chief William Rice.

Rice said his fire department is dealing with a major issue.

"It's difficult for groups to find volunteers. To be a paramedic, it's a pretty high level of education and training and it's very difficult to get people with the training to do it on a volunteer basis," said Rice.

Rice said it's been challenging for some time, but it's gotten worse.

"We need to take almost anyone we can get to keep these services going," said Rice.

The Grafton Fire Department and others are desperate to fill volunteer positions -- mainly because of a cost issue.

"Communities cannot afford to go out and correct this problem. This is an expensive problem. There's caps on spending. Elected officials like those here in Grafton would like to fix the problem, but they don't have the money to fix the problem," said Rice.

Rice has been trying to put a band-aid on the problem.

"I'm doing everything I can to keep Grafton services going -- to find a way to keep coverage. We pay part-time people here during the day," said Rice.

Meanwhile, Rice continues to look for qualified employees, and has opened his pool to a broader spectrum of applicants.

"Right now we need people so badly we are willing to take young men and women who are looking for a career in firefighting. We can help them, to a certain degree, to get the education they need and definitely the experience -- knowing they are going to move on," said Rice.

In the future, Rice said he suspects there may be some sort of regional department to help with the shortfall faced by many communities.