Nearly two dozen volunteer fire departments in Oneida County will be hosting an open house this weekend as part of the statewide RecruitNY effort.
Most of the agencies will hold their open house on Saturday, including Lee Center, Vernon and McConnellsville.
The Stanwix Heights fire department will hold their open house on Sunday. Lake Delta will hold events on both Saturday and Sunday.
RecruitNY is an annual event where volunteer fire departments across the state hold open houses to show off their fire trucks and equipment to try and interest new recruits to join up.
“It’s nice to volunteer, whether its in the fire service or church. You touch people’s lives in different ways,” said Michael Anania, longtime chief of the Western Fire Department.
Anania said there will be a chicken barbecue at Western starting at noon to coincide with the open house. He touted all the ways the fire department gives back to the community, including teaching CPR to students in the Holland Patent School District every year.
“These are life skills that you carry on with you forever,” Anania stated.
Carl Finen, new chief of the McConnellsville Fire Department, said they will be hosting a motor vehicle rescue demonstration, showing how they use hydraulic tools to cut open cars to get people out.
“The public seems to like it. We get everybody some training, show the public why we’re needed,” Finen said.
Clinton Fire Chief Jim Scoones noted that being a volunteer firefighter includes a tax break, and there are more positions than just firefighter. The volunteer departments need scene assistance, fire police and help with fundraisers.
“There’s a job for everybody,” Scoones stated.
The chiefs acknowledged that all volunteer departments are having trouble keeping up their manpower numbers. They said a change in work landscape keeps people out of their communities and doesn’t leave a lot of time to be on call for fires.
“It’s hard to find time to go take classes when you work a full time job and have a family,” Finen noted. Modern day volunteer firefighters need several hours of classroom training before they can suit up, which Finen said might be a deal-breaker for potential recruits.
Anania said the transition away from farming has been a problem for his rural department.
“Everybody’s busy and has responsibilities,” Anania stated. But both chiefs are hopeful that the recruitment weekend will see a good turn out.
“It gets the word out that we have recruitment issues and we’re still trying to do something,” Anania stated. “Hopefully we’ll get some prospects for new applicants.”
Saturday open houses: Clark Mills, Clayville, Clinton, Floyd, Lee Center, McConnellsville, New Hartford, Oriskany Falls, Sherrill-Kenwood, Stittville, Vernon, Verona, Western, Waterville, Westmoreland, Whitesboro and Woodgate.
Sunday open house: Stanwix Heights.
Both days: Lake Delta.
More information on the open houses and participating agencies is available at the website www.recruitny.org.