Apr 10, 2012 Amanda Seef Uncategorized
Fayetteville Fire Department, April 21, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Jamesville Fire Department, April 21, 22, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Manlius Fire Department, April 21, 22, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Fire departments: If you would like to be listed here, please email editor/reporter Amanda Seef.
It was a two-story house fire in Rome that got Kip Williams involved in the fire department.
He was on his way to work as the first trucks showed up to the roaring fire. He went about his day at work, later learning the fire took the lives of the family who lived in the home.
“That was about a year before I started,” he said. “It was so sad.”
That fire was the motivating factor to convince Williams to join the Fayetteville Fire Department, where he’s been a member since 2009 when he joined to help out the community should something similar happen locally.
That community service aspect has been a concrete reason why many men and women continue to volunteer their time for their local fire departments.
The public will soon get a chance to find out what the local departments are doing, and why they volunteer their time. The state-wide recruitment drive, Recruit NY, will be held April 21 and 22 at the tail end of National Firefighter Week. Nearly all departments will open their doors to anyone interested in learning more about how they operate or how to apply to be a member. The program aims to bring fresh faces to the departments and to showcase what local departments are doing.
The majority of fire departments in Onondaga County are 100 percent volunteer, said George Davenport, a Manlius resident and chairman of the recruitment committee for the Fireman’s Association of the State of New York. Davenport first started Recruit NY in Onondaga County, where 52 of the 57 departments in the county participated. FASNY has since taken the drive statewide.
“Everyone should serve their community, in whatever way they see fit. This is my window to help. I don’t think I can do this 20 years from now. Everyone should seize their opportunity to help out when they can.”
— Kip Williams
Each volunteer on the fire protection or EMT side saves municipalities thousands of dollars — nationally, volunteers save the nation about $37.2 billion in costs that would have to be paid to career staff.
“People volunteering are saving millions of dollars,” Davenport said. “If you didn’t have the volunteers, you would have to be paying them.”
Locally, nearly all departments in the county are volunteer. The departments are typically contracted through the village or town and assigned to a fire protection district. Fayetteville, Manlius and DeWitt have partially-paid departments, mixing career staff with volunteers.
“Everyone should serve their community, in whatever way they see fit,” Williams said. “This is my window to help. I don’t think I can do this 20 years from now. Everyone should seize their opportunity to help out when they can.”
Volunteering your time in some capacity is an important role of any community member, said Kevin Best, director of medical operations at the Manlius Fire Department.
“It’s kind of fun, but it’s also community commitment,” he said. “You need to have a void that needs filling, and it has to be related to helping other people.”
The reason anyone walks through the doors at the department is constantly changing, but the reason they stay is the same — community service.
“It gives you an opportunity to be inside that line,” said John Winslow, a Manlius firefighter. “You’re not a bystander. You’re a person who’s actually doing something to help.”
While the majority of fire calls aren’t structure fires, being there for the community during a vulnerable time is the root of the service, Williams said.
“When we show up on a scene, it’s that person’s worst day. We can’t do much individually, but as a group, we can do quite a bit,” he said.
“It gives you an opportunity to be inside that line. You’re not a bystander. You’re a person who’s actually doing something to help.”
— John Winslow
Kristen Greiner has been infatuated with medical and emergency services since she was 4.
“I was the child who watched Rescue 911 instead of cartoons,” the Fayetteville firefighter and EMT said. “I had an ambulance Lego set.”
So when she came back to the area after college at SUNY Geneseo, she joined the department. She didn’t have family involved, or any close friends or relatives in the service. Instead, it was a childhood dream brought to life.
“I was kind of flying solo,” she said. “But it’s like having another family here.”
Dan Miller agrees. He’s been in love with the fire service since he was a child. At age 20, he’s been involved in Fayetteville for six years.
“Ever since I knew what a fireman was, and what they did, I wanted to be a firefighter,” he said. “It’s pretty much why I get up everyday — to be a firefighter.”
Others come from a long line of firefighting brothers — legend families. Generation-to-generation, members join the service because it’s in their blood.
Patrick Rothery is no exception. His family knows fire service. His grandfathers and father were all chiefs in the Tully area. He grew up around the calls, and he knew what he was getting himself into.
“I’d hear the pager go off and watch my dad run out the door,” Rothery said. “I said, ‘I want to do that.’”
He’s a firefighter in Marcellus now.
It’s not necessary to come from a long line of firemen to join the service. In fact, there is hardly a “typical” firefighter. The rise of females involved in fire service has increased in recent years, composing about 5 percent of all volunteers, according to the National Fire Protection Association.
“It may look like there are not a lot of women in the fire service, but there are more than there ever was,” said Michelle Popps, a volunteer firefighter in Fairmount. She started as a firefighter at 37 — something she says proves you don’t have to be young, or a man, to get involved.
Women are taking active roles in all parts of the department.
“It’s fun being a female in the fire department because I look to them like my big brothers,” Greiner said. “I hold my own. They let me hold my own.”
Cassidy Tiska, 18, an OCC student in the fire prevention program, said she has found nothing but support from the male-dominated team.
“The majority of men are going to give you a pat on the back,” she said. “You’re trying. You’re putting yourself in a profession or volunteer situation and you’re giving it your best shot.”
It’s not all about running into burning buildings, said Tom Maroney, a fire police officer in Fayetteville.
“The fire police are not wannabe cops,” he said. “Our job is not to be the police, it’s to be the fire police and take care of the fire situation.”
As fire police, he helps to maintain the sanctity of a scene, keeping bystanders out and firefighters safe as they work at a scene.
His wife, Mary, is an EMT and crew chief with the department. They both joined after retirement, he as a professor at Syracuse University and an attorney, she as the director of the nursing program at Utica College. They’re both members of the fire department, but neither are firefighters.
Administrative positions, data entry, scene support and plenty of other positions exist for people not interested in firefighting.
The Maroneys are joined in the department by people who are just learning about the industry.
Max Bleiler is still in high school, a senior at Fayetteville-Manlius High School and a football player. He decided to make the jump into the fire department once the football season ended.
“I remember hearing the sirens, and the way they roared down the streets. It reminded me of making a tackle and hearing your name on the loudspeaker during a football game.” — Max Bleiler, an F-M student
“I remember the first call I went on,” he said. “I remember hearing the sirens, and the way they roared down the streets. It reminded me of making a tackle and hearing your name on the loudspeaker during a football game.”
When that alarm sounds, the beeper goes off or the text messages arrive, it’s an instant switch into firefighter mode.
“Every call is unpredictable,” Greiner said. “You never know what you’re doing to be dealt. It sounds like an easy, run-of-the-mill call, and you get there and it’s a whole change of pace.”
Adrenaline junkies flock to the department, looking to catch a thrill through helping in emergency situations. Keeping your mind straight and your training in the forefront is part of that adrenaline, said Rich Gesler.
“Your training and commitment to your responsibilities on the scene really take over,” he said.
Fire departments have become increasingly family-friendly, offering programs for the whole family to get involved. Social events, be it a summer picnic or heading to a baseball game, allow for the camaraderie to continue.
“I have met some of the most incredible people here. I’ve found something I genuinely love. It’s undoubtedly shaped my life. If someone can get a fraction of what I’ve gotten out of this, it’s a win for them,” said Kira Gridley, an EMT and crew chief in Fayetteville.
That group mentality comes in handy during most calls — first responders are on the receiving end of a lot of tough situations, working to put back together the puzzle as the pieces continue to fall. But when the day is through, and the responders return to the station, the family that’s waiting makes it all worth it, they say.
“My being a part of this department has changed my life,” she said. “If I ever left, there would be a big chunk of me missing.”
Doors will be open at the area fire departments for Recruit NY on April 21 and/or 22. For a full schedule of the departments’ open house schedules, check out this story online at eaglebulletin.com