Long Lake Teen Becomes Volunteer Firefighter Amid State Firefighting Shortages

There’s always a need for firefighters, especially in Northern Michigan where departments are facing shortages.

Long Lake Township Fire Department is no exception. They have 14 total firefighters on hand, and sometimes have just two people assigned per shift. But finding more firefighters is no easy task.

Nearly 64% of firefighters in Michigan are volunteers. But the population of volunteers has decreased by 12% in the last 30 years, according to the National Fire Protection Association.

Long Lake is in a constant state of recruitment.

Talent usually doesn’t just walk in the door. But a smiley teenager name John, did.

“I don’t know, I kind of went down to the station to check it out not sure if they needed anybody,” said 19-year-old John Mawby. “I kind of knocked on their door. I figured there’s a bunch of people down there, maybe they’d push me away. But sure enough, they needed a new guy.”

Mawby wanted to become a firefighter. And the department was more than happy to accommodate and train him to go out on calls. What he lacked in training and fire knowledge, he made up for in enthusiasm and dedication.

“I swear, he was here, for the first couple weeks, 40 hours a week hanging out,” said Long Lake firefighter Derek Smith.

“It’s nice to see somebody who’s passionate about it, he loves it,” said firefighter Austin Saxton.

Tuesday night, Mawby got a chance to go out on one of his first fire calls. A shed in Long Lake Township burned down.

“I was coming down the road and seeing the black smoke pouring across the road, it was really exciting!” said Mawby.

He’s not trained to tackle the fires just yet and needs to go to fire school. But he’s able to help his crew lay out hose lines, pull tools off the truck, change air bottles for the firefighters and other odd jobs.

“It’s nice having an extra set of hands, especially on the outside of the fire,” said Smith.

Long Lake Township and so many other departments are always looking for more people like Mawby. And their doors are always open.

“We’re constantly in need of people,” said Long Lake fire chief Andrew Down.  “Come knock on our door. We’re more than willing to help you.”

“Come down and check it out. Worst you’re going to do is waste half an hour of your time. Maybe it turns out you’re going to love it, like me,” said Mawby.