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To serve and protect

Do you know who answers the call when you report a fire? The odds are good that it's not a paid firefighter, especially in Liverpool. Indeed, all of the departments in the towns of Clay and Salina are 100 percent volunteer. There are no full-time, paid departments in the Liverpool area; instead, there are several departments staffed entirely by working people who devote their extra time to protecting and serving the community. Every one of those departments is constantly in need of more volunteers so that they can better help their neighbors.

We're always experiencing a shortage, said Teri Holcomb, vice president of the Hinsdale Volunteer Fire Department in Mattydale. Response time is always an issue. That's why we always want more volunteers.

Rick Jones, chief of the Mattydale VFD, agreed. Lots of departments are having problems, he said. We all need more people during the day. You know, people work, so they can only come in at certain times.

Moyers Corners VFD Chief Steven Bressette noted the urgent need in many departments for support personnel. We do pretty well with recruitment [of firefighters], he said. We really need administrative and support people - accountants to handle the books, secretaries to take care of the paperwork. That takes a huge load off me.

Several factors account for the need for more volunteers in local departments. First of all, the area is growing, attracting more people daily. This means that fire districts, though they cover the same geographical area, have more homes to protect. Secondly, the average life span of memberships has decreased in recent years. Bressette pointed out that, when his father was on the force, members stayed for 15 to 20 years.

Now the average age of membership is five to seven years, he said.

Bressette said that more parents are involved in their children's activities and more mothers are working. Fathers are under more pressure to be home. This tends to keep them away from volunteer commitments like the fire departments.

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