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Sat., Sep. 5
Serving the communities of Jefferson, St. Lawrence and Lewis counties, New York
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Firefighters use open house to recruit


ADAMS CENTER — During the past few years, the number of volunteer firefighters has decreased significantly, forcing small-town fire departments to recruit more aggressively than ever.

The Firefighters Association of the State of New York sponsored open houses to rally new firefighters Sunday. At the Adams Center Fire Department, the firefighters and auxiliary members were raising money and hosting a clothes drive for a local family who lost everything in a fire in addition to their normal recruitment.

“The biggest deterrent is lack of time,” said Fire Chief Mark C. Thomas. “When people are working two jobs just to pay a bill, and then they see they have to take a 90-hour class, they might not want to join.”

However, sisters Mary L. Edington and Genevieve E. Tuttle are reasons why more people should consider joining the department. Two weeks ago, the women lost everything in a house fire. The auxiliary is hoping to gather enough clothes and funds for them and Ms. Edington’s grandson.

“I’ve just seen their compassion,” Ms. Edington said. “They were so good to us. Mark came to me to tell me about my cat. He found it, and he was so compassionate.”

Ms. Tuttle said the auxiliary brought drinks and sandwiches for the hungry firefighters and victims that night. She said there is a need for more auxiliary members as well.

Auxiliary President Errin E. Thomas said although there are almost 30 members on the auxiliary roster, there are only six active members. Many of the older members are in retirement homes because the organization is nearly 50 years old. At a fire a week ago, only one member was able to attend a fire call.

“We’re looking for some younger members to come to the fires to provide canteen services,” Ms. Thomas said.

She said recruitment for both auxiliary members and firefighters was more aggressive last year. The fire department recruits mainly through word of mouth as well as social media. The fire station has its own Facebook page.

“We do have quite a few fans,” Mr. Thomas said.

He noted there are about 17 volunteers registered. He is hoping ideally for a roster of more than 20.

“My grandfather was a fireman, and my uncle was a fireman, so I was raised around the department,” he said.

Others did not grow up with firefighters in their family but they felt it was their duty to serve their community.

“I wanted to give back to the community,” said Daniel B. Rowland. “It could be one of your family members. When that pager goes off, you get that adrenaline rush.”

He’s been a part of the department for only one year, but he has a new appreciation for what the department does for the community. He also understands the declining number of firefighters could have a dire consequence for the community.

“Before I joined, I didn’t realize there were five key people who protect the town,” he said. “You take it for granted.”

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