This weekend, volunteer fire companies across New York state, including several in Niagara County, will hold informational and recruitment programs with the aim of expanding their membership ranks.
The Firemen's Association of the State of New York, along with a host of similar agencies in the state, says the program, called Recruit NY weekend, will help combat what's become a major problem for companies: declining membership.
Over the last several years, FASNY notes it has become tough for many fire companies throughout the state to recruit and retain volunteers, for a variety of reasons. Volunteer fire companies, whose members may be called to such events as fire calls, EMS responses, motor vehicle accidents and the like, or even the more mundane responses as lockouts, assisting residents or motorists, etc., are typically seen as the first responders in the community - in the same sense as police or medical personnel would be.
The only difference is that volunteers choose to do it of their free will. Yes, there are inducements - plenty of them, and many rewarding - but your typical member does it because he or she wants to. And they are a value to their respective communities.
"Volunteer firefighters and EMS personnel do important and challenging work for the pure satisfaction of helping others," said FASNY President David Jacobowitz. "They are essential for a number of reasons, including the fact that volunteers live in the communities in which they serve, which greatly enhances response times, and their volunteer service saves taxpayers millions of dollars every year."
Fire companies say they need to bolster their emergency responder numbers in order to continue providing the optimum level of protection for their residents. Now more than ever, fire departments want and need more of their neighbors joining their department.
As such, FASNY along with the New York State Association of Fire Chiefs, Association of Fire Districts of New York State, Volunteer Fire Police Association of the State of New York and County Fire Coordinators Association of the State of New York, are promoting Recruit NY in a move to increase volunteer membership numbers across the state.
During the weekend of April 9-10, fire companies will conduct tours of their firehouses, show off firefighter apparatus, allow visitors to try on turnout gear, and provide activities and stations throughout the firehall for visitors to participate in. Visitors will learn the requirements of being a volunteer and experience the satisfaction from members. There also will be demonstrations, questions answered, and information on how the interested resident can become involved in the fire company.
For local residents so inclined, that opportunity to experience what it's like to be a fire company member is April 9 and 10, with open houses and more at fire companies, kicking off National Volunteer Week 2011. The hope is that the collaborative effort among volunteer fire departments will turn the declining number of volunteer firefighters around, say organizers.
Local fire companies participating in Recruit NY include:
•Adams Fire Co., 7113 Nash Road, Wheatfield. On April 9 at 10 a.m., Adams will hold an open house at its new station on Klemer Road at Trails End Lane. On April 10 at 10 a.m., there will be an open house at the Nash Road station. Both events run until 2 p.m. and are focused on residents ages 16 to 62. Positions include interior firefighters, EMTs, fire police, administrative treasurers and supervisors. Visit the Adams website at www.adamsfireco.com/contactus to submit any questions, or call 692-3212.
•First Volunteer Fire Co. of Bergholz, 2470 Niagara Road, Wheatfield, will hold a chowder sale on April 9 at 11 a.m., and an open house from noon to 2 p.m., which includes a dedication of a new pumper.
•Frontier Volunteer Fire Co., 2176 Liberty Drive, Wheatfield, will hold a "firefighter for a day" session, Saturday, April 9 at the River Road station.
•Lewiston No. 2 Volunteer Fire Co., 1705 Saunders Settlement Road, Sanborn, will hold an open house on April 9 and 10; for times call 297-0050.
•Shawnee Volunteer Fire Co. 3747 Lockport Road, will hold an open house on Sunday, April 10; for times, call 731-3666.
•Tri-Community Ambulance will hold an open house from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, April 9, at 6276 Ward Road (corner of Lockport Road), Sanborn.
At the event the Niagara County Sheriff's Office will be available from 10 a.m. to noon for child identification cards. Also available will be ambulance tours, membership information, Explorer Post information, building tours, blood pressure checks, equipment demonstrations, refreshments, door prizes and activities for children.
•Youngstown Volunteer Fire Co., 625 Third St., Youngstown, will hold an open house on Saturday and Sunday, April 9 and 10. Call the hall at 745-3324 for details.
For more on Recruit NY, visit www.recruitny.org