HAMBURG, N.Y. (WIVB) – The 94 volunteer fire companies of Erie County are kicking off their annual “Recruit NY” campaign, looking for new members.
All local volunteer fire companies across New York participate in the annual statewide campaign. Last year, over 700 men and women joined Erie County’s volunteer fire service during the recruitment drive.
“What I think that tremendous number speaks most about is our community, that 700 people would step up and say that they were ready to serve,” Erie County Emergency Services Deputy Fire Coordinator, Tiger Schmittendorf, said during Thursday’s kickoff event at Newton-Abbott Fire Company.
“And I don’t think that that’s anything that we haven’t heard before about Erie County and Western New York and the great people that we have here, but it is yet another testament to the great community that we all enjoy living in,” Schmittendorf said.
On the weekend of April 26-27, the volunteer fire companies will open their doors to the public. People will have the opportunity to tour the fire stations, meet current members, ask questions, and learn more about what volunteer firefighters do.
“See what you can do. Not everybody has to run into burning buildings,” Jim Burns, president of the Firemen’s Association of the State of New York (FASNY) said. “There’s a lot of other tasks that the volunteer fire service does in the State of New York… HAZMAT incidents, auto accidents, wires down, automatic alarms.”
“There’s EMS. Do you have an interest in ropes, to be a member of the rope team? Search and rescue… Were you in the Boys Scouts or the Girl Scouts? Do you have a particular skill set?” asked Erie County Emergency Services Commissioner Dan Neaverth, Jr. “It’s not about running into the burning building, and it’s not about even extricating people from vehicles after accidents. It’s about contributing to your community and being a part of the team.”
Some departments offer certain benefits to volunteer firefighters. The LOSAP program makes available small pensions, depending upon years of service. Some communities offer property tax exemptions. You may qualify for an income tax rebate.
“But the biggest reward of it all is, you help a neighbor. That feels good, when you go home at night and you say, ‘That was a tragic scene for that family,’ but you were able to help them,” Burns said.
“If you are ever thinking about becoming a volunteer firefighter, now is the time to do it,” said Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz. “You can find out more as to how you can play a role in becoming, in some ways, a guardian of your community. There’s nothing more than can be said about an individual, that they gave their time, their effort, to be there for their fellow people in the time of need.”
For more information about becoming a volunteer firefighter in Erie County, to find your local fire district or to look up recruitment events, visit iVolunteerFire.org or call the recruitment hotline at (716) 601-3021.