Onslow County decline in volunteer firefighters consistent with national drop

ONSLOW COUNTY, NC (WITN) - Reports show national numbers of volunteer firefighters have been declining for years. Local officials confirmed Wednesday, Eastern Carolina is no exception. Onslow County is working with its volunteer firefighters to adjust to the changing industry.

Onslow County has 600 volunteer firefighters and rescue personnel. That's 200 less than they had in 2008. The county recently ended its contracts with volunteer rescue squads, and officials confirmed there have been concerns the same will eventually happen to the volunteer fire departments.

Onslow County leaders say, there are no plans for ending volunteer fire department contracts and say they need all the volunteers they can get.

Onslow County Emergency Services Director Norman Bryson said, "It's not something that by any means, we're looking to drive out the volunteers. We still need volunteers, and we're very appreciative of the ones that we have, and we will be glad, if anyone is looking to join those and be a part of that volunteer system, we're appreciative for them."

County officials are currently discussing updating contracts with the volunteer fire departments, something that has not been done since 2011.

County leaders would not specify what changes are being considered and said operational costs have been growing annually for several years.