FAIRPORT, N.Y. (WROC) — Volunteer fire recruitment is more difficult than ever and local departments are no exception.
The Fairport Fire Department is completely volunteer based and while they have a steady number of firefighters to get the job done, they said they’re still not at the number of volunteers they’d like to be comfortably.
Captain Dan Riordan with the Fairport Fire Department said on average, between 11 and 14 members respond to each call. He said that’s good, but standards call for 10 members in 10 minutes.
“We want to raise our numbers to get 15 to 16 members per call or 19 to 20 like it was 30 years ago,” said Captain Riordan.
He said the average amount of time a volunteer firefighter stays in the job is five years, meaning constant recruitment is necessary. The Fairport, Egypt, and Bushnell’s Basin fire departments team up to recruit. William Morris is the president of the Bushnell’s Basin Fire Department. He said recruitment actually increased at his department during COVID-19, but they’re still not where they need to be.
“We always have to have people when the alarms sounds, it could be any time day or night,” said Morris.
The pandemic had the opposite impact on Egypt. Alex Klimchuk is the chief in Egypt and said his department is at its lowest point right now.
“People these days are working two jobs trying to make ends meet so it’s a big time commitment but we’re willing to work with people,” Klimchuk said.
Chief Klimchuk said there’s a fear of having to hire career firefighters to be able to cover all calls but the department is fighting to keep the full-volunteer tradition alive.
The St. Paul Blvd Fire Department in Irondequoit has both and Captain Paul Spatola is a volunteer there.
“Without a higher number of volunteers it makes it a little more challenging for us to serve the community. We need a whole host of responsibilities and roles within the organization, drivers, pump operators, actual firefighters, leadership positions. So the lower that number is for all of us the more challenging it is to continue providing immediate excellent service,” Captain Spatola said.
He said anyone interested should take the jump. “It is the best thing that I’ve done, it’s my favorite thing to do. Not only is it fun, it’s rewarding.”
Captain Riordan also said the field is changing, and they keep that in mind when recruiting.
“It used to be the blue collar worker that lived in town or it used to be the vet that came back from World War II or Vietnam, but that culture is changing now. We’re taking teachers, folks that work in IT or accounting, our field is changing and we have to adapt to that.”
Anyone interested in joining one of the fire departments in Perinton can email email@example.com.