- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 23, 2015

LEWISTON, Idaho (AP) - When a fire breaks out at night in Idaho County Commissioner Skip Brandt’s hometown, “it clears the bars out,” he said.

Brandt explained Tuesday that the county has no shortage of willing volunteers to help put out fires. But he expressed concern about whether those responders have the right training and equipment for the job, reported The Lewiston Tribune (https://bit.ly/1jbcRgN).

Relying on volunteer firefighters could put the county at legal risk if they don’t have proper training, he said.

“We do get down to the reality that there’s a lot of lawyers around us,” Brandt told a roomful of regional fire chiefs and agency fire managers. “I hate to sink anybody’s ship but I think it’s a reality that we need to look at.”

Idaho County has four fire districts and 10 independent fire departments. Some are supported by tax dollars and others by donations, but all are staffed by volunteers. Those volunteers are, on average, 50 years old or older because retired people are often the only ones with enough time for the demanding job.

All the departments struggle to recruit new members, train them, maintain and upgrade equipment and stay in communication with other agencies during emergencies.

County emergency management director Jerry Zumalt said it can also be difficult to get firefighters to the right location because many roads and house address aren’t clearly marked.

It would be ideal if each department had two fire crews, said Brandt — one for wildfires and one for structure fires.

He wants to hold a public meeting at the Kooskia fire station on Oct. 7 to invite potential volunteers to sign up and invest in training.

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Information from: Lewiston Tribune, https://www.lmtribune.com

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