Volunteer firefighters strained by drought and grass fires

WICHITA, Kan. (KWCH) Changing weather patterns are putting the state at a higher fire danger and there's not enough full time firefighters to help out.

About 90 percent of firefighters in Kansas are volunteers or mostly volunteers according to the U.S. Fire Administration.

Several states across the country face that same high percentage but in Kansas, one fire chief says volunteers here are facing more strain as we see more grass fires.

A drought and dried vegetation from the previous growing season are fueling grass fires across the state.

A spokesperson with the Kansas Forest Service says this is a drought pattern that's been moving in over the last 30 years because of changing weather patterns.

Cowley County Fire Chief Randy Hoffman says there's been fewer volunteer firefighters throughout the years, which creates a strain on both the firemen and resources.

"The biggest problem with any volunteer fire department in any state in the United States is lack of volunteers anymore. We just almost have to beg people to volunteer," says Hoffman.

Hoffman says now many of the volunteers he has have to train to fight fires hours are away and have to work their normal jobs.

"You go fight fires for 12 hours in another county and then you come back and hopefully sleep for another couple of hours and then go back to work at your regular job and keep on going."

Hoffman also says a lot of the Cowley County volunteer firefighters save vacation time at their full time jobs leading up to fire season, just so the volunteer stations are staffed on high fire danger days.