PLATTSBURGH - Fire and emergency personnel are hoping to add more members to their ranks.
The Clinton/Essex County Fire and EMS Recruitment and Retention Committee will take part in the first-ever statewide Unified Firefighter Recruitment weekend this Saturday, April 9, and Sunday, April 10. Local fire departments will open their doors to area residents, giving them an opportunity to learn what it takes to be a volunteer firefighter or emergency medical service provider.
Eric Day, director of the Clinton County Office of Emergency Services, said he has seen a decline in those volunteering in the world of firefighting and EMS over the last 20 years.
"That's why we're putting on a big push with this event," said Day. "We want to bolster the ranks of the fire and EMS departments. We need to find new ways to try to attract more people to volunteering."
The recruitment event this weekend will be an opportunity to highlight the duties and rewards that come with being a volunteer firefighter or EMS provider, with the hope doing so will get more interested in giving of their time.
The largest challenge facing departments, said Day, is time.
"Everybody's got so much going on in their lives these days with family events, a lot more sporting and extracurricular activities with kids, people working second jobs trying to make ends meet ... the time factor is the biggest thing that comes up against volunteering," said Day, adding the cost of attending training comes in at a close second.
Regardless, volunteer departments need manpower.
"If we don't have help, we're still getting the trucks out the doors, but in many cases and during the daytime especially, the numbers get kind of thin and departments have to call neighboring departments to help them," said Day. "And, sometimes it takes two or three departments to put together a response for event the most basic of calls, let alone a large working fire."
Having an understanding and appreciation for that is something Day hopes people will walk away with this weekend, even if they don't end up wanting to become a volunteer.
"We just want to generate some interest in people helping their community. It's about helping your friends and neighbors," said Day.
Throughout the day Saturday and Sunday, departments will conduct tours of their station, firefighter apparatus and equipment. Department members will discuss the requirements to be a volunteer, and how to get involved in the department. Those interested in more information or in volunteering at a fire department or EMS provider in Clinton or Essex counties may call 728-4698 or 573-8920.