HENRIETTA, N.Y. (WROC) — Demand for new firefighters for both paid and volunteer positions is the highest it’s been in years at fire departments around the Greater Rochester Area and State of New York.

But attracting a new field of recruits will require sorting through more complex issues compared to what other first responding agencies are dealing with when it comes to staffing.  

When looking at 911 call volumes, a lot more is being asked these days of our local firefighters compared to just 20 years ago. And leaders of local fire departments say that’s contributing to a decline in recruitment and volunteers as the pace of work life becomes difficult to make time for family. Now that state is looking at reform.  

Henrietta Fire District Chief Mark Cholach, began as a volunteer firefighter more than 30 years ago. Since then, his team has lost about a third of the volunteers. Part of this is due to the more training it takes to be certified.   

“You’re talking to about 180 hours of training,” Chief Cholach explained. “As opposed to a career staffer, New York State law dictates when a career firefighter graduates from the academy, they need to have 600 hours of training. So, it’s becoming a more investment in time.” 

In 2002, the Henrietta Fire District received just over 3,100 calls annually. Last year, nearly 7,500 emergency calls came in. Making it difficult for firefighters to balance this busier pace in work with family time.  

“There’s more development, there’s more hazards we have to deal with,” Chief Cholach continued. “So, at what point is the tipping point from somebody wanting to leave home and their family to go answer another automatic alarm or answer a carbon monoxide detector.” 

Although Henrietta can afford to train most of their staff, other departments rely on their crews to go to the state academy. Forced to take time away from their other jobs while paying the fees. But the state is looking to reform this process. 

“Help subsidize or pay for that monetary impact that a volunteer firefighter has in pursuing their training,” John D’Ablessandro, secretary of the Firefighter Association of the State of New York, said. “Also, the possibility of paying volunteers to become of local volunteer EMS and fire departments.” 

Despite this decline in staffing and recruitment, every fire department we spoke with said they still have a presence at all their stations 24/7 and anytime you call 911 for help involving the fire department, someone will be there as quickly as they can.  

As for the Rochester Fire Department, a spokesperson for the city says this year’s recruitment class is big enough to fill all vacancies and no station is experiencing a serious shortage.