Years ago there was a friendly disconnect between municipal governments and volunteer fire departments.
The VFDs went about their business of saving lives and property, and the role of local government was simply to thank them for their efforts. The recruitment of volunteers and raising money to buy and maintain necessary equipment wasn't something that the local governments had to worry about. Bingo, firehall rentals and various other fundraisers took care of that detail.
Times have changed.
Unfortunately that relational model hasn't adapted to the new challenges that have appeared for volunteer emergency services.
More and more people are working two jobs, leaving precious little time for volunteering, and, in the case of firemen and EMTs, insufficient time for the hours of training required. Volunteers have become scarce. Fewer and fewer people can afford dropping money on Bingo, let alone sending their local VFD a check every year.
The cost of equipment and training continues to rise.
It is an equation with a problematic answer.
Something has to be done.
Fortunately, something is being done.
The first tentative steps to review the relationships among individual departments and local government are taking place through meetings and an effort called the Warren County Emergency Services Partnering Project.
This effort has come about because volunteer emergency services in Warren County are teetering close to the tipping point where - God forbid - some calls don't get answered quickly or are answered too late.
If you believe that the ultimate job of any local government is to look after the health and welfare of its constituents (and you should), then it is imperative that government and VFDs work together to find innovative solutions to these challenges.
For more than three-quarters of the population of Warren County, these volunteers are their first and last line of defense against tragedy. Keeping them funded and active should be a top priority of every individual and every local government.