This weekend, fire departments across Onondaga County will hold open houses as part of RecruitNY, a statewide effort to recruit more volunteer firefighters.
Clay All across the country, men and women volunteer to help others on their worst days.
In Onondaga County in particular, most of the fire departments and EMS services are staffed entirely by volunteers. In order to keep those agencies staffed, fire departments across the state will hold open houses this weekend to encourage residents to volunteer for the fire service.
The state-wide recruitment drive, Recruit NY, will be held April 27 and 28 at the tail end of National Firefighter Week. Nearly all departments will open their doors to anyone interested in learning more about how the departments 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 events will include opportunities to speak to firefighters, try on turnout gear and breathing apparatus, obstacle courses and more.
“We have many different members present — young, older, men, women — to discuss with those interested of how their process works and how there is a need for everyone [to handle] different job tasks,” said Cicero Fire Chief Jon Barrett. “The volunteer fire service is in need of members; there are several different tasks whether it be EMS/fire duties or duties back at the station.”
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. The drive is conducted in an effort to reverse a nationwide shortage of volunteers; without volunteers, municipalities would have to contract with paid departments.
“People volunteering are saving millions of dollars,” Davenport said. “If you didn’t have the volunteers, you would have to be paying them.”