The Daily Star, Oneonta, NY - otsego county news, delaware county news, oneonta news, oneonta sports

April 28, 2014

Firehouses report few new recruits

By Cathy B. Koplen Contributing Writer
The Daily Star

---- — Despite putting out a warm welcome, two local fire departments reported a lackluster turnout during open house events held Saturday and Sunday. 

Volunteer fire departments throughout New York opened their doors over the weekend to demonstrate fire equipment, hold fundraisers, sell dinners and offer fresh-baked brownies to recruit possible volunteers. Sponsored by RecruitNY, the event aimed to bolster the ranks of departments that often struggle to recruit newcomers. 

Several Otsego volunteer fire departments participated in the event, but some stations only had members and associates show up for the event.

“Our event was uneventful,” said Mark Hoag, Lt. EMS at the Schenevus Volunteer Fire Department.

Hoag said no one came to inquire about volunteering — which, he said, is a problem.

“We are always short-handed,” Hoag said. “We need more people. Some of the guys that have been with us for a long time are getting older, and we are having a hard time replacing those people.”

But Hoag added that he understands why people are unable to commit to becoming a firefighter.

“It is a big deal, and people these days they have to work two and three jobs just to make it,” Hoag said. “There is a pretty big time commitment.”

The Mount Vision Volunteer Fire Department saw one person sign up during the two-day recruitment event. The volunteer was only the second person the department has recruited since Mount Vision started participating in RecruitNY in 2011. 

“We really don’t expect a lot of people will show up,” Mount Vision Volunteer Fire Chief Jim Cox said, but “we made brownies just in case.”

Those who generally join are those who know a member, or someone who was helped by the department, Cox said. 

“The girl who volunteered today, her boyfriend joined last year,” Cox said. “He had just moved to the area and we went to his house on a chimney fire call. Afterwards I talked to him and said maybe he would like to come down to the station on a Tuesday and see what it is like.”

Jonathan Chambers said he joined the Mount Vision Volunteer Fire Department because he wanted to help people and because he wanted to socialize with others who were helping the community.

“I came to the area and I didn’t know anyone,” Chambers said. “I came to the fire department to help with administrative support. Then, I decided to take a class, and I took scene support. I kept taking classes and now, I have gotten my Fire Service Instructor One.”

Nick Devine has been a volunteer firefighter since 1975. His wife, Noreen Devine, and his son, Ryan Devine, are members of the Mount Vision Volunteer Fire Department.

“When I was a kid, I was here all the time,” said Ryan Devine. “It was only a matter of time before I joined.”