LINCOLN CITY — Though firefighters are often the first thing people think of in association with a fire department, there are a number of positions that aren’t fire-related at many stations across the county and the country. Emergency medical services, water rescue teams and support positions are all important to the communities they serve — and many of the people providing those services are volunteers.
At North Lincoln Fire and Rescue, nine new support team volunteers were welcomed in the August newsletter. That large influx is a welcome sight for Captain Jim Kusz, who manages the support team and leads their educational efforts in the community. Support positions are varied in duties at different districts, and even at different stations. Though the majority at North Lincoln work in educating the community about safety and preparedness at events, others will be helping to get the new station ready for the firefighters to use.
Though districts always have something that needs to be done, specialized skills and experience can be put to work, if the district knows that they’re available. Kusz noted that both Newport and North Lincoln have volunteers who serve as photographers for the districts. Additionally, NLFR has a district chaplain who is a volunteer.
“There are other jobs available with the support side of things, but first and foremost we are looking for responders,” he said.
But even that doesn’t have to mean firefighting — EMS and the water rescue team volunteers are an integral part of North Lincoln Fire and Rescue.
Emergency medical services are key in any community, serving as the first medical responders on scene at many accidents and tragedies. Though the life of volunteer responders is demanding in ways that people don’t always think about — Kusz said that those on-call often leave dinners, parties, family holidays and other events because they’re called to help their community. He estimated that around 80 percent of the calls North Lincoln receives are for medical assistance.
The water rescue team was formed in the early 1980s and continues today, thanks to the dedicated volunteers who see the need and are willing to undergo the training. The team has evolved over the years and continues to adapt as equipment and resources undergo changes and upgrades.
“This year we’re mounting our PWC’s — Jet Skis — on repurposed military Hummers,” said Kusz, “you’ll most likely get a glance of these vehicles in a few months.”
Along with the benefits all volunteers enjoy at North Lincoln Fire, water rescue volunteers get to undergo specialized training that could lead to other employment opportunities in the future, as well as the satisfaction of knowing that they are saving lives.
“It takes a special type of volunteer to be a water rescue member, and lots of additional training, but to have the skills to be able to save a person in the surf is well worth it,” said Kusz.
Those interested in learning more about non-firefighting volunteer positions should contact their local fire agency.