Why would you want to become a volunteer firefighter? There's a laundry list of reasons, according to two active firemen: one from Manlius, the other from Fayetteville.
"It's tremendously rewarding coming from a personal standpoint," said Fayetteville FD Assistant Chief Larry Byrnes, who's been fighting fires for 37 years. "You're one-on-one helping this individual or group of individuals. We don't talk about buildings, necessarily. What we're there for is to help the people, and you really get tremendous satisfaction."
Manlius firefighter Rich Gesler highlighted ancillary benefits such as forming camaraderie with fellow firefighters and learning new skill sets.
"It's great training whether it's at the local or state level," he said. "It's just amazing."
While structural fires occur, they don't happen as often as one would think.
"Fighting a fire is 5 percent of what we do," Byrnes added.
Emergency Medical Services (EMS) has become an integral part of fire service and both Manlius and Fayetteville provide transport; they don't use an outside service like most departments in Onondaga County.
In fact, there's been an increase in EMS calls, Gesler said, which makes it even more important to get people on board, and soon. While both departments have core paid staffs that respond to EMS calls first, volunteers are needed to back the second ambulances.
On the whole, there is a shortage of drivers and apparatus operators at both fire departments.
"There's something for everybody," Gesler said, noting that you don't have to fight fires to become a member of the department. Additionally, the departments are looking for nonmembers to help with bookkeeping, computer work and so forth.
As for the time consumed in being a volunteer, Gesler, a husband and father of three school-aged children, emphasized again there's something for everybody, from being a firefighter to scene support, from taking the driver training class to helping with the auxiliary by preparing meals.