HOWARD-SUAMICO (NBC 26) — Local fire departments are fighting fires and fighting staffing shortages.
"We're struggling to even get applicants. Where we used to have a large pool of applicants, now it's much less," Howard Fire Department Assistant Fire Chief Ann Watzka said.
Currently, the Howard Fire Department is down 10 firefighters, however, thanks to a $25,000 grant from the Department of Safety and Professional Services, the Howard and Suamico Fire Departments are working to change this.
The grant is going to the Howard-Suamico School District, and the money will be used to host classes for firefighter certification at Bay Port High School through Northeast Wisconsin Technical College.
The money will also provide youth firefighters with new gear and personal protective equipment.
The goal of the grant is to inspire a new generation of firefighters.
"We look forward to the challenge and new ideas that will come from having young people become part of our department," Watzka said. "They will come to our training sessions. They will be able to observe until they actually get their certification from the state, and this will hopefully get them excited about a career in the fire service."
Autumn Bloohm is a junior at Bay Port and a firefighter with the Suamico Fire Department. She said being a firefighter at a young age is one of the best experiences she's had, and she thinks the grant could help motivate her peers to follow in her footsteps.
"Being a firefighter is important since we are involved in the community as a first responder," Bloohm said. "We are there to help you guys on your worst days, and to help your fire department helps us help you more."
The training classes are expected to begin in the fall.