CLIFTON PARK, N.Y. (NEWS10) – While much of New York State is served by volunteer firefighters, not nearly as many are willing to answer the call as of the past few decades.
“In the early 2000s, there were roughly 120,000 volunteers across the state of New York. Today, we’re probably somewhere in the 80,000 to 85,000 range,” says John D’Alessandro, association secretary for the Firefighters Association of the State of New York.
To address the declining number of volunteers, several departments in Saratoga County including the Clifton Park Fire Department, plan to hold a different type of recruitment event in October called “Firefighter for a Day”.
“We are inviting the public to come here and participate in our fire stations. In essence, we will have multiple stations set up with different jobs we do from putting out a car fire to throwing a ladder on a roof to operating the jaws of life,” says Art Hunsinger, past chief for the Clifton Park Fire Department.
Each station will allow an opportunity for people to see the different responsibilities of a volunteer firefighter and to educate those people to know that not everyone who volunteers has to run into a burning building. “They could be a support body which would be an exterior firefighter and help us do the things we need to still do so we’re hoping that by doing this hands on event it will give them a chance to see what we actually do in a very safe and secure manner and say, ‘hey you know what? I could do that,’” says Hunsinger.
While there isn’t an age cap on who can be a volunteer firefighter, many do tend to be older as they might have more time on their hands to volunteer. Time, according to D’Alessandro, is one of the biggest walls departments run into when recruiting and retaining volunteers.
The “Firefighter for a Day” recruitment event will take place at the Clifton Park Fire Department on Old Route 146 on October 1 from 8 a.m. until 2 p.m. You do not have to be a resident of Clifton Park to attend as a handful of other agencies from nearby fire districts will also be on site.