Spring, Klein fire departments hit service milestones despite volunteer shortages

As the Spring and Klein community continues to grow in population and property, local fire departments have ramped up efforts to maintain service levels while facing volunteer shortages.

Since each organization’s founding in 1951 and 1953, respectively, the Klein Volunteer Fire Department and Spring Fire Department have grown to provide service for a combined 114 square miles of unincorporated northwest Harris County. While the area is home to about 152,000 people, throughout the course of the day, an additional 25,000-30,000 people work in the area, SFD Chief Scott Seifert said.

To keep up with this growth, both fire departments recently hit service milestones within a four-month period.

At a swearing-in ceremony July 20, the KVFD hired Michael Gosselin as the first paid fire chief in the department’s history. Until then, the department had been led by elected volunteers.

“Times have changed,” KVFD Deputy Chief Eric Reinkemeyer said during the ceremony. “The community has grown, and the needs for fire suppression and rescue have grown … [and] the responsibilities of a fire chief are fierce and demanding.”

Shortly after, the Spring Fire Department became fully staffed 24/7 for the first time in its history in August—four months ahead of schedule. Seifert said funding through Emergency Services District

No. 7 enabled the department to hire three additional personnel in 2019—an annual cost of $85,000 for salary and benefits per entry-level firefighter, plus $6,000 worth of gear.

“That means firefighters who are responding from fully staffed stations will have the best response time that can possibly be done,” Seifert said.

Additionally, SFD celebrated the opening of Station 74 on Oct. 5. Seifert said the $7.9 million station is a replacement facility, as the original station did not include sleeping quarters.

However, Seifert said fire departments across the board are facing challenges when it comes to recruiting volunteers. Seifert said out of every volunteer recruit academy class, SFD has about a 60% dropout rate.

“We try to give them proper expectations … [but] I think... the commitment is much greater than they expect,” he said. “[Volunteers] are a huge piece of our heritage, but the reality is we have to make sure there’s somebody going to those calls. So that’s why we’ve evolved into what we have today.”
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