Being a volunteer firefighter isn’t an easy feat. Men and women put their lives at risk every day to save others, they’re continually pulled from family and friends at all times of day and night and they aren’t even paid for it. But through it all, those men and women say it’s worth it and encourage others to join. Our Cara Thomas tells us about the new recruiting campaign New York’s Firemen’s Association has begun.
MASSENA, N.Y. -- "Fire fighting to me is helping my community. Being out there and helping people when they're in dire need," said Dale Barker, a Fireman's Association of the State of New York Volunteer Programs Coordinator.
Volunteer firefighters say they love what they do. But over time, they've noticed younger generations aren't as willing to join the cause.
Chief Mark Picerno of the Tupper Lake Fire Department said, "Years ago, we used to have a waiting list of firefighters 10, 15 deep waiting to get into the department. Nowadays we maybe have one or two."
Fire chiefs say they need at least 20 firefighters volunteering at their station to run properly. But in small towns, those numbers just aren't available.
"Fire departments are experiencing major issues with permanent retention. They're running maybe 12, 13, 14 members per station and it's becoming a major problem," said Barker.
To address what the Firemen's Association of the State of New York says is a vital need for volunteers, they've begun a new recruitment ad campaign. Their goal is to add an additional 15,000 firefighters by 2015.
Picerno says, "I think every little bit helps when it comes to recruitment in New York State."
How will they reach this goal? Not only will they be advertising the benefits of being a volunteer firefighter through all forms of media, but they're offering an incentive. Current and new volunteer firefighters will receive college tuition reimbursement for up to a two year degree at any community college.
Barker said, "There's a possibility depending on the student and their GPA as to a possible 100 percent tuition reimbursement. So the program is a must for the area and for all of New York State."
And with any luck, it will attract the next generation of heroes.
Anyone interested in recruiting can enter their information online and the closest fire department will get in touch. For more information, go to www.fasny.com.