For more than a decade, the Firefighters Association of the State of New York has run an annual campaign to inspire individuals to enter the fire service.
RecruitNY seeks to inform prospective candidates of the need for volunteer firefighters and how to become involved. This program is essential as more than 90% of all fire departments in the state are volunteer.
Through the years, many local departments have agreed to participate in RecruitNY. This entails volunteer companies hosting open houses on a particular weekend to provide information to those who are considering joining their ranks.
The RecruitNY weekend this year has been set for Saturday and Sunday. Volunteer departments throughout the state will open their doors to members of the public.
But unfortunately, fewer local volunteer fire departments have opted to participate this year. There are two companies in Jefferson County scheduled to host open houses — the Black River Fire Department and Sackets Harbor Fire Company — and one company in St. Lawrence County — West Potsdam Volunteer Fire Department. No companies from Lewis County have so far committed to participating.
Representatives from a few local companies have said they no longer take part in the RecruitNY campaign. They don’t attract many visitors, and these departments are finding other ways to get the word out.
“We are having a booth at the Career Day at Lowville Academy and Central School where we are going to give an overview of our junior program in hopes of getting a slow start with that,” Lowville Fire Chief Joseph Austin told the Watertown Daily Times, referencing an event held April 6. “Then we’ll see where we go from there.”
During this gathering, firefighter Benjamin J. Lyndaker spoke with high school students about the department’s junior firefighters program.
“We got applications out,” said Lyndaker, noting that eight students showed interest. “I hope they come back. This was our first event such as this for the Junior program. It’s a perfect opportunity to reach out.”
Companies in the north country have begun such initiatives to invite young people to consider career in the fire service. Generally, they appeal to youths ages 13 to 18.
West Carthage has a Restricted Active Member program for young adults ages 16 to 18. It allows teenagers to train with firefighters to see what it’s like. The company also operates a junior program for 13- to 15-year-olds.
Lowville’s junior program is open to youths ages 16 to 18.
“Junior members [in Lowville] will meet to train with active members on the third Monday of each month and are welcome to attend the department’s regular membership meetings on the first Monday of each month,” an article published Aug. 6 by the Watertown Daily Times reported. “According to the program coordinator, junior members will be allowed to assist with exterior operations at fire scenes and at motor vehicle crash scenes, if they are comfortable and the tasks are deemed safe by the incident commander.”
It’s unfortunate that the RecruitNY weekend hasn’t been as effective for local companies as it could be. A coordinated campaign to host open houses across the state is a good idea, but it obviously has limited appeal.
So we’re pleased that fire departments in the region are finding new ways to reach potential recruits. These youth-oriented programs could be a more prudent method for companies to use their resources as they plan for their future.
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