Volunteer Firehouses Statewide Opening Their Doors This Weekend
Volunteer fire departments statewide have lost a lot of members over the past decade due to the unstable economy. Now, they are hoping to rebound with an event this weekend called "RecruitNY."
According to New York State's Firemen’s Association, the number of volunteer firefighters dipped from 110,000 a decade ago to 85,000. The decline in flame tamers sparked the idea a year ago to have RecruitNY, a program which has many volunteer firehouses across the state opening their doors a few days each year to potential new members.
"There are two main goals. One is to reintroduce the volunteer fire service to the communities they serve, to make connections with people in those communities so they can better understand what we do, and hopefully to entice some of them to become volunteer firefighters," stated John D'Alessandro, deputy volunteer programs coordinator for the Firemen's Association of the State of New York.
D'Alessandro also spoke about an interesting statistic which emphasizes the importance of volunteer firefighters.
"Most people don't realize that over 85% of the firefighting services and emergency services that are provided in the entire country are done by volunteers," he said.
Currently, there are nine volunteer fire departments in New York City. The problem for these local volunteer firehouses is that the firemen eventually get offered more lucrative positions.
"It has not been difficult to bring them in, the problem is that we train them for a year or two so well that they're able to go to paying fire departments," explained Doreen Garson, the assistant chief at the Gerrisson Beach Volunteer Fire Department in Brooklyn.
Garson says volunteer firefighters have the ability to provide calmness in incredibly stressful and scary situations because they live in the community.
"They are your neighbors, there is nothing like calling for help and having someone you know walk in your house and absolutely feel comfortable because you know who they are," she said.
The activites, which occur at the fire houses, will vary. Some will let guests pull out a hose or watch a demonstration of a car fire. Other places will take a simpler route by providing food for visitors who browse through their facility.
RecruitNY will take place on Saturday and Sunday. A list of fire houses involved can be found at www.recruitny.org.