NORTH CREEK In the spirit of community involvement, the North Creek Volunteer Fire Department will host an open house and membership drive Friday, Dec. 5 from 6-9 p.m. Anyone who is interested in the fire services, regardless of which district they live in, is invited to attend. A free spaghetti dinner will be hosted by the North Creek Fire Department Auxiliary. In conjunction with the membership drive, the department will be introducing its participation in LOSAP (Length of Service Awards Program), a tax-funded retirement program that is becoming increasingly popular with volunteer agencies. North Creek Fire is the only department in the Town of Johnsburg to offer the program that passed by a referendum vote earlier this year. Department Chief, Steve Studnicky, hopes that programs such as this will turn around what has been a declining membership roster over the last few years. We are like everybody else - were an aging department, Studnicky said. Were doing everything we can to boost the younger members and take care of the people we have now. Hope for the next generation With a majority of its younger members taking on professional jobs or moving out of the area, the department has started to look at innovative ways to reach a younger audience. They recently decided to introduce an Explorer Program, similar to those offered by other regional volunteer agencies. Explorer Programs have become an increasingly successful way for local agencies to recruit young members that would otherwise be prohibited from serving. The program allows members as young as 14-15 years old (with parental consent and passing school grades) to learn the role of the fire department without actually taking part in hazardous duties. For several years weve had a junior membership program for 16-18 year old kids, Studnicky said. Now were going to expand that a little deeper. All were trying to do is encourage their involvement in serving as a volunteer by having them come in and learn about the equipment and how everything works. Obviously, they would not be actively involved in firefighting but it gives them a good opportunity to learn about something they ordinarily wouldnt be exposed to. The meaning of volunteerism Youve got to want to do this in order to do it, Studnicky stated, in reference to why he devotes so much time to the department. Its very gratifying and it gives you a sense of self worth to be out there. Its also a good community thing and its a way to give back to the community. Its a completely selfless thing to do. This year, the North Creek Fire Department has responded to 77 calls, a number that is down considerably from their average of 100 per year. Thats a great thing, he added. Looking ahead While the basic role of a firefighter has remained essentially unchanged over the years, external factors such as local housing development have forced departments to face new challenges. As the region grows and new seasonal and tourist-oriented housing projects are constructed, Studnicky is anticipating a time when the department will have to adapt to being much busier and filling more dynamic roles. Just this year, two new rules were put into effect that call for dispatch of the fire department for injury unknown motor vehicle accidents and for EMS assistance in the event of a patient suffering full cardiac arrest or failure to breath. A lot of this isnt so much about whats going on today, he said. Were looking at whats going to be happening five years from now. Helping where you can Similar to national trends, formerly gender oriented groups such as the traditional Ladies Auxiliary are slowly fading away. Todays Auxiliary is just as likely to count men among its ranks as women, as people with an interest in providing support service try to find ways to lend a hand. We need assistance everywhere, Studnicky said. We need members in different roles such as truck drivers, support personnel, traffic directing fire police, administrative and fund raising positions. Also stressing the importance of community, and the inter-departmental assistance that happens in the region, Studnicky reinforces that everyone is welcome to stop by and learn about the department. We want to get as many people involved as we can regardless of what department they would belong to. For more information, contact the North Creek Volunteer Fire Department at (518) 251-2324.