As volunteer fire departments across the United States face recruiting and retention problems, one volunteer force in Hartford Township may soon be closing down entirely.

Hartford trustees are negotiating with nearby Brookfield trustees about hiring Brookfield Fire Department to provide the township’s fire service, said Hartford Chief Ben Anspach.

“The Hartford Township Board of Trustees has a concern at the lack of manpower that we currently have for the fire department,” Anspach said.

The problem is the same as everywhere, he said. Training time is up and families are busier and people are working more, meaning there’s less time to commit to a very time-consuming service.

“No one has time to be a volunteer any more, so we only have 11 people on our roster and when those 11 people are at work or going to school in the day there’s nobody to respond to the calls,” Anspach said.

It can get especially bad between the hours of 7 a.m. and 3 p.m., he said.

Brookfield would also handle the emergency medical services in Hartford, Anspach said. In Hartford and Brookfield, EMS tends to be publicly funded by the townships. In Mercer County, most ambulance services are privately run.

There is no word yet on how Hartford’s department will have to handle the equipment they purchased using FEMA grant money, Anspach said. He guessed about $100,000 of federal money went toward firefighting equipment about three years ago.

Brookfield Fire Department is a hybrid of paid and volunteer firefighters. Any firefighters from Hartford’s volunteer department who wanted to continue to volunteer would be accepted by Brookfield if an agreement is reached, Anspach said.

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