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Volunteer fire departments in Central Pa. continue to battle worker shortages

Like many volunteer fire departments across the state, local departments are struggling to recruit volunteers.

HARRISBURG, Pa. — Like many volunteer fire departments in Central Pennsylvania, Progress Fire Company in Dauphin County is struggling to recruit volunteers.

"Volunteering across the country is going away," said Benny Wolford, a captain at Progress Fire Company. "It's for a multitude of different reasons. I think society changing is one type of thing."

But on the other end of the hose, those who still desire to be a volunteer firefighter put their skills to the test on Wednesday. 

Volunteer firefighters with Susquehanna Township Public Safety put together a live training exercise at a vacant restaurant in Harrisburg that used to be Joe K's Brewhouse.

"Even though we're not doing live fire tonight, they're getting to actually cut a commercial building roof as opposed to a training center when it's just plywood and things like that," Wolford explained.

The firefighters conducted removal drills in fake smoke, an experience that portrayed the hard work firefighters do daily.

It also served as a reminder of the dire need for more volunteer firefighters across Central Pennsylvania.

"Just trying to get people into public service period has been hard [on]...the fire department and the police side," said Wolford. 

Despite the struggles that have come with recruitment lately, Wolford says younger adults still have an interest in volunteering.

"We're getting more people in, I just think the volume is just not as big anymore," he said.

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