Arlington, Blair and Fort Calhoun volunteer fire departments responded to a record number of calls in 2019.
According to the National Fire Protection Association, this is part of a national trend, which has seen increased calls for departments across the country.
Factors for the increase vary between departments from an uptick in motor vehicle crashes to a boost in population.
The Blair Volunteer Fire Department responded to 938 calls, which was 59 more than 2018, also a record-setting year. Arlington's total increased by nearly 50 percent, from 121 calls in 2018 to 178 in 2019. Fort Calhoun saw its second-straight year of more than 300 calls.
It doesn't appear to be slowing down anytime soon either. Blair had only one year — 2017 — where the number of calls was less than the previous year. That year, volunteers responded to 815 calls. In 2018, the number surged back up to 879.
While the total number of calls have continued to increase, many of the departments are seeing a decrease in volunteers.
In 2019, Blair's membership dipped as low as 39. Only 15 years ago, the department had nearly 75 members. Currently, there are 50.
Fort Calhoun has 31 members, while Arlington has 26.
So what does this all mean?
The Washington County departments have some very dedicated volunteers — some responding to more than half of their respective department's total calls. They're also answering mutual aid calls to help other departments inside and outside of the county in addition to completing the necessary training hours required on the state and national level.
But that takes a toll.
As the number of calls continue to increase and volunteer numbers dwindle, people will get burned out. Departments will lose those dedicated people who wanted to help their community.
Now is the time for residents to support their area fire departments. If you have ever felt a calling to serve, contact a member of the department and get an application. They're always looking for more members.