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Lake Mills welcomes firefighter recruits, but staffing shortage is far from over

Five new recruits are joining the Lake Mills Fire Department, though the chief says the station is not out of the woods when it comes to a staffing shortage.
Published: Feb. 10, 2022 at 10:51 PM CST
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LAKE MILLS, Wis. (WMTV) - Five new recruits are joining the Lake Mills Fire Department, but the chief says the station is not out of the woods when it comes to a staffing shortage.

Fire departments around the nation have struggled to keep men and women on the roster, Chief Todd Yandre said, similar to what other chiefs are reporting. Yandre said reasons include the many training requirements and the high level of commitment required for the fire service.

With the new additions, Yandre will soon have a roster of 37 firefighters, but he said many of the paid, on-call volunteers are working and unavailable during the day. He added, when it comes to retention, volunteers typically stay for two to three years.

“It takes probably close to a year for new recruits to get their training done and get some real-world experience where they’re a true asset to your department,” he said.

The recruits must first meet their training hours and pass state-level exams. John Ganey joined 24 other firefighters from area departments Thursday for the second night of entry-level training.

The topic-- protective gear.

Ganey works as a middle school algebra teacher. “It’s not hard to make that time when it’s something that’s this important,” he said.

Ganey is making the switch at 40 years old.

“I’d say that the older I get and the more that I notice things around me happening where people need help, the more important that becomes then to help people,” he said.

The youngest recruit, 17-year-old Christian Stuebs, said he plans to commit to the fire service full time.

“We need people to always be servants in the community, to always want to come and serve,” he said. “If nobody’s willing to do that, we won’t have great places like the fire department, like the police stations, like the medical services.”

The recruits have more training ahead. In Lake Mills, the chief said requirements include 116 hours of training. Recruits must also pass state written and practical exams to get certified.

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