All-volunteer Fire Department More Than Doubles Staff

Grant aids with recruitment and retention efforts

MARIPOSA, CA -- Responding to calls for service is what Jim Wilson wants the Mariposa County Fire Department to do best.

However, the history of the department's volunteers fluctuated during the past 10 years and it was hard to keep a good track record.

In 2000, the Mariposa County Fire Department had 215 members on its roster. By June 2006, that number had declined to 83 people.

"We cannot meet service demands with only 83 members," said Wilson, fire chief for Mariposa County Fire Department.

The department applied for and received a 2007 SAFER grant to help in recruitment and retention efforts.

"This is an individual department award," Wilson said. "However, the only other fire department in the county operates the rescue vehicle through a Joint Powers Agreement and share in the volunteer stipend when they respond into MCFD areas. While it is not technically a regional award, it is in effect regional in nature."

The department used the funds for training activities that helped offset out-of-pocket expenses associated with serving the community.

"It should not cost our volunteer members money out of their already-tight family budgets to serve their communities," Wilson said. "Training and response stipends have dramatically improved member morale."

In addition, the department used grants funds to offer eight, $500 scholarships per year for educational activities for members and their families, not required during the course of normal fire department business.

The department also created recruitment brochures that will be used during a four-year time span as well as 12 recruitment banners to hang on the outside of each fire station.

To help with membership coordination, the department was also able to hire a Volunteer Membership Coordinator, who has dramatically augmented recruitment activities.

"The true value of this employee is in member retention," Wilson said. "MCFD's limited administrative staff simply could not supply adequate member service to more than 100 new members. Training issues alone would have overwhelmed numerous new members without a dedicated member to supervise their needs."

Thanks to the SAFER grant, the Mariposa Fire Department has increased volunteers members to 188 as of January 2010.

"The number of dropped calls has dwindled to near zero, training participation is at an all time high and the roster continues to grow," Wilson said. "None of that would have been possible without the above SAFER R&R projects."

What They Bought With The Grant:

  • Recruitment and retention tools
Last updated February 11, 2021