Craven County Fire Department Needs Volunteers As Firefighters Age

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The Township 6 volunteer fire department in Craven County is in desperate need for more volunteers. Some of the most dedicated volunteers on the force have been there for nearly 40 years.

Ralph Roeland has been with the Township 6 Fire Department since 1971, the year of its inception. Now at 79 he's still at every call he can respond to, but says he would like to see some new blood.

"I'd like to see some of these young folks come out here and get involved," said Roeland.

Those sentiments are echoed by 81-year-old Paul Plagge who has been with the department more than 25 years. He says when they first formed the department it had over 40 members, but now as the population has grown their membership has gone down.

Township 6 has 28 active volunteer firefighters, but firefighters say and average of about 6 show up to a scene.

"We could use another 10-15 members if they'd like to come," said Assistant Fire Chief Larry Curtis.

Curtis says the average age of Township 6 firefighters is over 50. He says a lot of younger volunteers are marines, so if they're on base or deployed they can't make to it a call. Curtis says while the community's safety is the number one reason they need more volunteers, he's also concerned dropping membership will cause their insurance service rating to go up, which will affect homeowners' insurance cost. The insurance service office rating is based on the ability of a fire department to protect the district. Curtis says although this isn't guaranteed to happen right now, it is a reality if something doesn't change.

"We do need the people. If there's about a half dozen of us that show up for about every fire, and if we're not around to show up- who's going to show up?" said Plagge.

Assistant Chief Curtis says all volunteers don't necessarily fight fires, but they can help on scenes and even just help with work that needs to be done around the fire house.