STEWARTVILLE, Minn. - The Stewartville Fire Department is entirely operated by volunteers who are unpaid, aside from a small stipend.
Four members of their crew who respond to the daytime weekday calls in the community are getting close to the age of retirement. While Fire Chief Vance Swisher says those members have expressed that they're not quite ready to retire yet, the department wants to be ready for when the time comes.
"Just being proactive to identify. We've got this gap coming up; We know it's going to come, and trying to figure out what is it we want to do as a community to make sure that we can still provide that high level of service that we do today," Chief Swisher explains.
While changes could be coming in the next 3-5 years, Swisher doesn't think community members need to worry about losing any emergency and fire services. "They shouldn't be concerned about losing services, but the way we deliver services may change, so we may find that a different model will work better for us."
The city and the SFD are looking at a variety of options including hiring a full-time paid staff member or recruiting students from Riverland Community College with paramedic, EMT, or firefighter training.
The Stewartville Fire Department has about 35 volunteers who respond to around 500 calls a year. According to Chief Swisher, SFD is the busiest non-career fire department in Southeast Minnesota.