According to Phillip Mosher, assistant fire chief for the Moab Valley Fire Protection District, of the 40 people who keep the fire department running, only three are paid. The other 37 crew members are all volunteers.
And their job isn’t only fighting fires. While most big departments have specialty crews available to handle different types of incidents such as search and rescue or hazardous materials, firefighters in Moab have to train for every possible situation.
“We don’t have any mutual aid besides Monticello, Castle Valley,” Mosher said. “If we get called out, it’s just us ... We have to train to know how to deal with every different aspect of an emergency.”
“Our volunteers volunteer for so much more than just fire,” he added. “They’re spending tons of time on other aspects of this just to try and keep our community safe. Because they’re part of our community.”
When firefighters first join the department they spend the first 12 weeks on probation, rotating through the four different companies that cover the area, Mosher said. While some of that training is done in the classroom, most of it takes place in the field.
The department maintains two burn towers to help the firefighters train, which they do for two hours every Wednesday, except for the last week of the month. “We have full-time departments come down here oohing and aahing over things that we do because we are so into our trainings and everything to make sure we can do all this stuff,” Mosher said.
So far this year, the department has responded to approximately 200 calls. They never know when their services are going to be needed, and the firefighters are on-call 24 hours a day, Mosher said.
Responding to an incident could be somewhat problematic when a firefighter is at work – most of the volunteers have other jobs to actually pay their bills. However, Mosher said the department has been lucky that most of the businesses in town are willing to put up with the sudden departure of a volunteer firefighter.
“They don’t know if it’s their house or their business,” Mosher said. “It’s all their community, and that’s important to everyone ... It’s been really nice to have that community support.”
The fire crew’s duties also don’t end when the alarms stop sounding. Mosher said the firefighters also volunteer their time to travel around to the schools teaching fire prevention and inspiring young kids to want to be firefighters.
“Every kid wants to be a firefighter,” he said.
The volunteers also do fire extinguisher trainings in the community, and local parades wouldn’t be complete without the sound of the fire truck sirens filling the air.
Even outside of work, Mosher said, the department expects the firefighters to present themselves as public figures.
“We hold them to a higher standard,” he said.
Some of the volunteers have been with the department for as long as 35 years.
“That’s amazing for a volunteer organization,” Mosher said.
He added that the streets of Moab wouldn’t be the same without those men and women who are willing to sacrifice their time to help the entire community.
“Everything we do is about our volunteers,” Mosher said. “If there’s no volunteers, there’s no department. That’s what makes everything work.”