The images that come to mind you when think of firefighting include burning homes, fire trucks, hoses, and firefighters working in difficult conditions. But in many rural communities like Shirland there’s another danger. There’s not enough firefighters to fight fires, or respond to calls.
“Part of our particular problem is we have such a small population base,” said Shirland Fire Chief Ronald Weaver.
Among those residents is volunteer Lt. Joe Girouard. He worked more than 20 years as a Rockford 911 dispatcher. When he left his city job he knew he wanted to continue to serve his community, which is why he joined the Shirland Volunteer Fire Department.
“I wanted a little bit more of adrenaline, so I decided in my mid 40’s to become a firefighter,” said Girouard.
There’s roughly 14 volunteers on the force including the chief. Each volunteer responds to calls when they’re available. If no volunteers respond to the station during an emergency, they have to call for mutual aid. That’s why Chief Weaver is urging qualified community residents to join the volunteer fire department. Not every volunteer has to fight fires, there’s almost a job for everyone.
“If you have a fire you have 10 percent of the guys that go in the house, the rest of them are doing all these other things exterior to the house and don’t have to go in,” said Weaver.
The volunteers respond to roughly 100 calls a year from accidents, drug overdoses, to structure fires.
“Our people are trained enough to put on an AED and do CPR for heart attacks, or supply oxygen, whatever is necessary,” said Weaver.
It’s an eye opening experience that can build a long lasting relationship with fellow volunteers that goes beyond the call of duty.
“The comradery and brotherhood and sisterhood, we’re all one great big family and we would lay down our lives for each other at any scene or scenario,” said Girouard.
In order to be eligible to volunteer for the department, you must live in Shirland, or within three miles of the community. For more information you can call the Shirland Fire Department at 815-629-2406 and ask for the chief, or visit their Facebook page.