AUBURN -  Auburn firefighters could receive a $250 income tax credit and stipend from the city under a program approved Monday by the city council.

Councilwoman Katy Billings said Auburn will budget up to $20,000 to support volunteers who meet certain thresholds for training hours and emergency responses.

Billings: “I think it is a really good way to incentivize and encourage current members to remain active. There may be some current members that are not that active, maybe this will incentivize them to be more active. I also think it’s a really great recruitment tool.”

Fire Chief Darwin McCollum said being a part of an organization with the mission of helping the community is still the best reason to volunteer, but the incentives come at a good time. The roster is currently low at 29 members, compared to a full roster of 40.

McCollum: “We are the lowest I’ve seen it in our roll call right now. We need new members and we need to keep the members that we have and that right there is how we do it.”


The council approved the fire department recommendation of Melody Billings as certification administrator.

Billings: “I am a fifth generation member of the Auburn Volunteer Fire Department, so firefighting has always been a part of my life. To me the Volunteer Emergency Responders Incentive Act is important because it helps grow our department and just really helps our community members hopefully realize what their department does for them. A lot of people don’t realize how thankful they are for the fire department until they need them.”

Billings is a 2022 Auburn High School graduate who is finishing her first year on the fire department.

Billings: “Unfortunately the average age of those members continues to increase and we are getting to the point where we don’t’ have enough younger members to fill the roles of those older members who are nearing the mandatory retirement age or are just not physically able to keep up with doing the job anymore.”

The Auburn fire department volunteers are typically providing 1,400 hours of training and response time each year.

McCollum – the best case scenario for me as a chief is we help the community, we put out fire, car wrecks, all my firefighters are safe . We do the best job for the community and everybody goes home to their families.”

Mayor Chris Erickson said Peru is another city in Nemaha County to implement the Volunteer Emergency Responders Incentive Act.