JOHNSBURG - Throughout its seven fire departments and one rescue squad, the town of Johnsburg is host to roughly 150 volunteers who have joined these organizations to selflessly act as a support for their community.
"We are here to do so much more than fight fires," said North Creek Fire Chief Steve Studnicky. "Many of these members pour their heart and soul into the success of the departments and service to the communities," said Studnicky.
With a total of 18 trucks servicing the town of Johnsburg, the seven departments see a combined average of just under 200 calls a year. Their lone ambulance squad stays busy under Captain Corey Ouellette and has logged 195 calls to date this year.
"We may only get 12 calls a year, but that's 12 calls too many," said Fred Comstock, fire chief in Garnet Lake.
Garnet Lake is one of the smallest departments in the town and Comstock views their purpose to be one that goes above and beyond fighting fires. He stresses the importance of a fire department's relationship with the people it serves.
"People like to get to know us," he said. "We are like family to lot of them."
Many of the departments are seen fundraising locally for both themselves and the benefit of members of the community. They participate in numerous individual sponsorship including donating toward Johnsburg Central School scholarships, youth athletics and Camp Colby attendants. Each year, all of the Johnsburg departments collaborate on providing a 4th of July celebration at Ski Bowl Park.
"All the departments work really hard to make this event happen," said Johnsburg chief Barry Aldrich. "It's nice to see all of us working together on something besides fighting fires."
Recently, such fundraising paid off in a big way for the Wevertown Fire Department. They were able to purchase a new truck to replace their existing truck, which was built in the 1980's. They received the new tanker last week.
"This is a real big deal for us," said chief Jarret Brown. "We are not only proud that we could make this happen, but are excited to be able to better serve in times of emergency."
Despite their size, local departments recognize the important roll they play in securing the safety of the 206.7 square miles of land in the town of Johnsburg.
"Time is important when fighting fires," said Bakers Mills chief Lewis Hitchcock. "There is too much space in this town to rely on another town or one department."
"We are so spread out that one department wouldn't save much of anything," said North River Chief John Donohue.
Riverside Chief, Bob Frevele also noted the impracticality of a paid company.
"The town budget couldn't afford to support a paid company," he said.
If the taxpayers had to pay for 24/7 ambulance service alone, it would cost a minimum of $380,000 per year to station one two-person crew.
That volunteer spirit has spilled over from local fire departments in school with junior fire fighter programs as well as into local communities through auxiliary groups.
"Our auxiliary keeps us going," said Donohue. "They are always willing to be here and to help us out with anything we need."
"These people were born to volunteer," said Frevele.
Through March, members of the rescue squad have already logged over 2,000 volunteer hours.
"Volunteers are the backbone of our agency," said emergency squad board member Kelly Nessle.
If interested in volunteering with a Johnsburg fire or rescue squad, contact a chief or captain directly to find out where you can be used.