North Dakota Firefighter Convention | VideoEvan Kruegel | 6/1/2012
"This is our business meeting, we come and have a memorial service to honor those firefighters across the whole state who have passed away or had their last alarm, if you will, and we take care of all of our business that we do and of course our business is increasing," said President of the North Dakota Firefighterís Association (NDFA) Rick Graba.
One of the biggest problems these fire departments face is holding on to volunteers. It`s a statewide problem, but one that Williston knows all too well.
"The young volunteers come in and then there`s a better job offer down the street so it`s hard to keep people. Those are issues that we have, recruitment and retention, but everybody has that," said Williston Fire Chief Alan Hanson.
"Volunteerism is a tough thing and we`re finding that out in Western North Dakota the call volume has gone up significantly, and it`s a struggle to keep doing this. Just to recruit new members and contain them, because of all the new things society has put upon us and the new demands, we have to come up with ways to train which equates to more time away from home. Its extremely difficult to meet what the public expects from us," said Graba.
The city lobbied to host the convention this year because of historical significance. The first time Williston hosted the convention was 100 years ago, in 1912.
"I`ve got a picture that hangs over my office desk of the parade in 1912 with the horse-drawn hose cart and the parade of firefighters behind that. And it`s quite an inspiring picture when your fire apparatus is drawn by two horses named Hook and Barney," said Hanson.
The convention has certainly evolved over the years, but the goal has remained the same.
"To keep everyone informed, find out where we`re going, and ultimately it`s a brother and sisterhood. A chance to get together and relax," said Graba.
It`s never easy to be a firefighter, but this convention hopes to solve some of the problems these heroes have to face.