By Alex Valverde, www.twcnews.com
Struggling to recruit and keep members is a common problem among many volunteer fire departments.
“We have a limited number of man power,” Alexandria Bay assistant fire chief Robert Service said. “It’s hard to get firefighters nowadays, because the training is very extrenuous and it’s pretty long.”
However, a new bill introduced by Sen. Patty Ritchie may just be an answer to the problem.
It would allow out-of-state firefighters, like seasonal visitors and Fort Drum soldiers, to volunteer at local fire departments. Right now, by law, volunteer firefighters must live in the community served by the fire department they want to join.
“Specifically on Black River, it’d be a tremendous impact because obviously our close proximity to Fort Drum, we see a lot of soldiers that want to join. They want to serve their community,” Black River fire chief Matthew Carpenter said. “However, a lot of them live on post and we have to have specific regulations for them to join our department and we’re restricted on how many we can take that live outside of our jurisdiction.”
Some departments say they do see an increase in activity during this time of year. So, even if seasonal visitors can only volunteer for a few months, the help is still greatly needed.
“You see an increase in motor vehicle accidents. There’s more people on the road,” said Carpenter.
“We’ll take all the help we can get,” said Service. “Military or civilians up here on vacation, anybody.”
In addition to increased activity, there can even sometimes be a decrease in members throughout the summer due to vacations. So, fire officials say this action could have a positive impact on their departments and serving their communities.
In order for an out-of-state firefighter to volunteer locally, their training and experience must meet New York requirements.
The bill is currently waiting for the governor’s signature to become law.