A number of St. Lawrence County fire departments will participate later this month in a nationwide effort to attract more volunteers.
Most departments are hurting for membership, said Dennis E. Eickhoff, co-chairman of the retention and recruitment committee of the county Chiefs Association.
Training requirements take a big toll on keeping members in departments, Mr. Eickhoff said.
Part of the problem is commitment, he said. You have to keep this stuff up all the time.
Family obligations also make it more difficult for people to volunteer at their fire departments than in the past because both spouses now often have jobs, creating a time crunch, he said.
The fear among many departments is that older members will retire without a younger generation to take their place, forcing the doors to close or that they will be replaced by a paid organization that will cost taxpayers more, Mr. Eickhoff said.
Being a volunteer firefighter can help pay for college. The Firemens Association of the State of New York has a program that pays community college tuition for volunteers, which might be expanded to SUNY schools, he said.
Several fire departments will open their doors during weekend open houses April 26 and 27 so residents can learn what it takes to volunteer as a firefighter.
This is the fourth year weve done it, Mr. Eickhoff said. Hopefully, well have a good turnout.
For more information, visit www.recruitny.org or contact a local fire department using a non-emergency number or through its website.