WARRENSBURG - Fire departments around New York state will be holding open houses this weekend as part of the Recruit NY program, organized by the Firemen's Association of the State of New York (FASNY). State officials aim to recruit more volunteers and retain them longer.
Several local fire departments will be opening their doors to the public on Saturday, April 9, including the Warrensburg Volunteer Fire Company, the Lake George Volunteer Fire Department and the Pottersville Volunteer Fire Department.
The volunteer pool of firefighters is shrinking statewide, and this new recruitment push has galvanized the firefighting community to get out a unified message.
In Warrensburg, the fire department's volunteer corps is down to 28 members, and the average age is about 50, according to fire department President Kevin Geraghty, the town of Warrensburg's supervisor and longtime firefighter.
"We need more young members," Geraghty said.
The Warrensburg Volunteer Fire Department, located at 18 Elm St., will be hosting its open house - with tours of the firehouse and refreshments - from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. April 9.
The Lake George Volunteer Fire Department, located at 179 Ottawa St., will also host an open house from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. April 9, according to fire department Secretary Barb McGuirk, who serves as a liaison with the FASNY Recruitment and Retention Committee.
"We're trying to get all the fire departments to hold open houses," McGuirk said. "We need volunteers because volunteering is down."
Visitors to the Lake George firehouse will be able to take part in a number of hands-on activities for the whole family, from trying on gear to posing in a fire truck. A barbecue lunch will be served, with desserts donated by the Lake George Baking Company, and information will be available for anyone interested in joining the local company or auxiliary.
"There's a place for everyone in our firehouse," McGuirk said. "The fire department becomes your second family."
There are openings for volunteers who want to fight fires, drive trucks, or support the other members. McGuirk recognizes that it takes many hours of required training to qualify for certain jobs, and it is a big commitment of time. The Lake George Volunteer Fire Department holds training sessions every Tuesday night. But, she said, the training is worth the extra effort.
"Training is the key to our success," McGuirk said.
The Pottersville Volunteer Fire Department, located at 20 Valley Farm Road, will be hosting an open house from 1 to 3 p.m. April 9.
"This is a great opportunity for our neighbors to see the real work our firefighters do and the service they provide," said Pottersville Chief Guy Swartwout. "Our current members love what they do. And they provide an invaluable service. We hope our recruitment day will inspire other area residents to join our fire service family."
Throughout the day, the fire departments will conduct tours of the stations and firefighter apparatus, allow visitors to try on turnout gear, provide activities, offer fire safety information, have refreshments available, and, in Pottersville, give a gift to each child attending. Fire officials will discuss the requirements to be a volunteer, as well as conduct demonstrations, answer questions, and let visitors know how to get involved in the fire department.
Earlier on April 9, a pancake breakfast will be held from 8 to 11 a.m. at the Pottersville firehouse to benefit the department and the PVFD Ladies Auxiliary.
FASNY worked in conjunction with the New York State Association of Fire Chiefs, Association of Fire Districts of New York State, Volunteer Fire Police Association of the State of New York, and County Fire Coordinators Association of the State of New York to make the Recruit NY program possible.
For more information, visit online at recruitny.org.