“Staffing is probably the biggest challenge for our department right now. A few years ago, they transitioned from a 100% volunteer to a full time fire department here. It’s called a combination fire department,” Koopman said.

That means some firefighters get paid to work full-time and everyone else volunteers their time.

There are only eight paid firefighters in South Sioux with one open position. A few full-time firefighters volunteer.

About 48 percent of South Sioux’s population is Hispanic and 11.5 percent of the population is Black or African American. That includes a growing Somali population.

Two members of the department are Hispanic and speak fluent Spanish, but Koopman said he was hired to help grow that number.

“I would say we’re pretty diverse for the main cultures that we have in the South Sioux City area here, but we can always do better,” Koopman said.

The South Sioux department is getting a $500,000 grant over four years from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. It allows Koopman’s department a chance to market, recruit and educate the community about volunteering as a firefighter.

Grant money pays the firefighters, even the volunteers, to spend time at schools and career fairs to recruit more volunteers.

One of those volunteers is Xavier Robles.

He said having a diverse department not only helps with communication in an emergency, but with recruitment too.