BLAINE COUNTY -- Back in August 2012, the Blaine County Fire Chiefs Association received a large federal grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The four year $1,699,900 grant will go to recruiting and retaining volunteer firefighters.

Throughout the Blaine County fire departments, there are just more than a couple dozen full-time firefighters, but there are more than 150 volunteers. With this grant, fire chiefs hope to grow the number of volunteers and keep more of them around.

The 2007 Castle Rock Fire showed the importance of volunteer firefighters in Blaine County.

If I could tell you the man hours that we spent over a two week period alone the volunteers, every volunteer we had stopped going to their regular jobs and worked 12 hour shifts, seven days, eight days, 12 days in a row, said Ketchum Fire Department Lieutenant Paramedic Lara McLean.

McLean said they could not have handled the Castle Rock Fire without the volunteers. We could have easily lost the town if it weren't for the volunteers.

The Department of Homeland Security gave the Blaine County Fire Chiefs Association a Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response grant. The money will be divided over four years. It will help departments in the county get new volunteers and keep them. McLean said it will also help with some operational costs

They spend hundreds of hours training to do their jobs for the community for almost nothing, she said.

McLean said the volunteers get a monthly stipend if they meet training requirements.

On Saturday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Festival Field, the Ketchum and Sun Valley Fire Departments will be hosting a Fire Services Appreciation Day. This is another chance to recruit new volunteers and educate folks about what fire fighters do.

It's a great day to come out and say thank you. But it's really our way, the fire department's way and the volunteers' way, of saying thank you back for supporting us, said McLean.

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