'Few in numbers': With only volunteer fire departments, Leslie County fights a staff shortage

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LESLIE COUNTY, Ky. (WYMT) - In the past month, there have been multiple fires across Leslie County. In one specific incident on January 16, a fire destroyed one home, severely damaged a second and left external damage to two more in Hyden.

For the six fire departments in Leslie County, responding to those calls is not always the easiest, especially since there is no regular staffing at any of them.

"Yes the numbers have shrunk, they've gone down quite a few," said John Newell, the fire captain at the Thousandsticks Volunteer Fire and Rescue.

The Thousandsticks department sits along the Hal Rogers Parkway, not far from Leslie County's downtown of Hyden. The department faces the same problems the other five are experiencing.

"We have the equipment, nice equipment, but we need the hands to go with," Newell added.

All six departments in the county are volunteer-based. No firefighters in Leslie County get paid for their work.

"When I say 'volunteer' it is volunteer, we don't get paid a dime," he added.

Newell has been a firefighter for nearly four decades, he says the numbers have dropped a lot during the decades, and now volunteers are hard to come by.

Most men work during the day, so finding volunteers to help during the day is what causes them problems.

He emphasizes the importance of their work. The fire in Hyden on January 16th could have spread to another four homes if it was not for them, and the help they got from Perry County firefighters.

"We are proud when we're able to save a building, save a life, to rescue someone, we're quite proud of that, but again, we're few in numbers," Newell said.

He adds that you can also just volunteer to drive the fire trucks they have or run the hose.

There is also a junior firefighters program, where children under 18 can work to get hours that go towards their training for when they turn 18.