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Local fire departments put out the call for new members

Jessica Cain

A major recruitment effort is underway to bring more volunteers to fire departments across the state. The 11th annual RecruitNY campaign will involve departments organizing in-person and virtual events on April 24th and 25th. 

Ken Pienkowski is a past president of the Firemen’s Association of the State of New York, or FASNY. He said across the state, member enrollment is down and call volume is up for fire, safety, and emergency medical services.

“These calls are increasingly diverse, between medical emergencies and COVID-19 calls, to flooded basements, downed power lines, automobile accidents, and of course, fires,” said Pienkowski.

In Onondaga County alone, there are an average of 150 alarms answered by volunteer fire departments every day. However, the pandemic has hurt recruitment efforts by forcing the cancellation of open houses and other outreach events.

“Each and every day, we face challenges and without the citizens to get involved, these departments are going to fail, and none of us want any of our organizations to fail,” said Chief Paul Hildreth of the Fayetteville Fire Department.

Hildreth started as an explorer with the department in 1981. His father was also a member.

“There’s nothing more rewarding than helping somebody in your community,” said Hildreth. “When you see the smile on their face, or you see them in the grocery store and they come up to you and say, ‘thank you,’ all that stuff is just so rewarding.”

Volunteer firefighter and Cicero Town Councilor Mike Becallo said if people have ever thought about joining a fire department, now’s the time to ask questions. The time commitment can be flexible, and there are a wide variety of positions available.

“If you do have any time, come down to our departments, communicate, talk with our members, and they’ll tell you that our leadership is here to help you be a wonderful member, helping our community.”

Jessica Cain is a freelance reporter for WRVO, covering issues around central New York. Most recently, Jessica was a package producer at Fox News in New York City, where she worked on major news events, including the 2016 presidential conventions and election. Prior to that, she worked as a reporter and anchor for multiple media outlets in central and northern New York. A Camillus native, Jessica enjoys exploring the outdoors with her daughters, going to the theater, playing the piano, and reading.