MARINETTE — Because of a lack of volunteers, area rescue squads are aiming to hire full-time employees starting in 2021.

Wausaukee Rescue Squad President Steve Vandenberg talked about the situation facing his organization. He said the Wausaukee Rescue Squad has struggled to recruit volunteers to work as emergency medical technicians, adding that surrounding communities have faced the same issues for several years.

Currently, the Wausaukee Rescue Squad has only three volunteer emergency medical technicians who cover the squad’s 24-hour shifts, according to Vandenberg. The squad has been run ragged by this schedule, which has been the standard for the past few months, he said.

The lack of community volunteers has finally pushed the squad to make the EMT and other positions on the squad paid.

“We’ve been requesting volunteers from the community for the past two years and nobody has stepped up,” Vandenberg said. This has forced the squad to alter its recruiting strategy. “We have to go this route or close our doors. Three of us are running this place 24 hours a day, every day,” Vandenberg said.

The new full-time squad members will be providing services to both the town and village of Wausaukee, Wagner, Amberg and Middle Inlet. All of these communities will be providing the funding to hire and maintain the new squad.

“If you live in the service area of the squad, your property taxes will go up in order to pay for it,” Jeff Engelmann, a chairman of the Wausaukee Town Board said. “You have to have a rescue squad, it’s required for a town to function. Not having it would be like not having garbage pick-up,”.

Wausaukee Rescue Squad hopes that by the end of hiring, it will employ 16 new full-time employees. The new employees will be a mixture of drivers, first responders and EMTs.

“Hopefully by the spring of 2021 we’ll be up and running with all the new hires trained and working,” said Engelmann.

It is not known at this time if COVID-19 will impact the hiring and training process of the new recruits.