Throughout Colusa County, there is a need for volunteer firefighters to adequately protect people and property from fire and fire–related hazards. As call volume increases, more departments depend on volunteer firefighters. Colusa County’s departments serve a rural area of over 21,000 people and provide fire protection and rescue services to 1,100 square miles of rural area. Our 7 volunteer agencies included in the grant respond to structure fires, wild land fires, medical emergencies, water rescue, technical rope rescue, hazardous materials spills, public service assistance calls and other emergencies.
Across the United States, 71% of firefighters are volunteers. In Colusa County, that percentage is nearly 90%. The Department of Homeland Security has awarded the Colusa County Fire Chiefs Association a four year Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant in the amount of $972,050. The SAFER grant was awarded to 7 Colusa County volunteer fire departments to help increase the number of total volunteers. The departments included are: Arbuckle/College City, Bear Valley/Indian Valley, Colusa City, Maxwell, Meridian, Princeton and Williams. The funds will be used to implement a regional marketing campaign and volunteer benefit program in order to retain existing volunteer firefighters as well as recruit new volunteers.
Colusa County Fire Chiefs believe the volunteer recruitment problem is due to the lack of communication between the fire service and the public. The public does not realize there is a need for volunteer firefighters.
The Colusa County Fire Agencies have implemented a monthly financial incentive based on a “cafeteria” benefit program, where each firefighter is able to personalize this benefit to meet their needs. The IRS regulated cafeteria program includes the option for each volunteer to choose one benefit to motivate them to continue to volunteer their time. The benefits offered include a 401k contribution (tax deferred), medical and dental insurance premiums, dependent care expenses, and advanced education expenses (college tuition).
These benefits will only be available to active members who meet the Standards of Performance and are in good standing with their chief. These new benefits will be utilized in our marketing efforts for recruiting new volunteer firefighters.
For more information on becoming a Volunteer Firefighter, please contact your local fire department.