Local fire departments across the state are opening their doors this weekend in hopes of recruiting new members.
“Some of our members are aging,” said firefighter Arnold Briscoe of the East Glenville Fire Department. “It’s harder and harder to get members. Both parents have to work. It’s a lot busier times.”
At Station 2 in Rotterdam, only about half of the active members are qualified to enter a burning building to fight a fire. They’re holding a series of events Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. in hopes of attracting young, able-bodied volunteers to help bolster their ranks.
“Numbers are down,” said Second Assistant Chief Kevin Thomas. “You need those people to come answer the call. Communities need help.”
Although the work is demanding and comes without any pay, volunteer firefighters said it’s worth it.
“It is like being in a second family,” Thomas said.
Briscoe added that the work is incredibly rewarding.
“You are going to save a life,” he said. “You don’t know when that call will come, but it will. Everybody does it at some point. I’ve certainly saved a few lives and there’s no feeling like it.”
He still remembers hanging from a rope during a flood, trying to rescue a man whose boat was about to be ripped apart against a lock. He remembers straining to reach the man, just above the thundering waters. Then something slammed into the lock and the bridge above it shuddered.
“The whole bridge jumped up three feet. People were running off the bridge, afraid it was going to go. And I was hanging from a rope tied to the bridge,” he said. “The water was going so fast, so high ... I was seeing parts of docks slamming into the bridge, propane tanks slamming into it. You’re thinking, which one is going to explode?”
But he hung on, and reached the man at last.
He’s never forgotten the feeling when his team was able to pull the man to safety.
“I can tell you, it’s a lot of memories,” he said. “It really feels good to help somebody when they’re really in need.”
For a list of volunteer stations hosting events for prospective members, go to www.recruitny.org/opendoors.php.
Dozens of departments in the Capital Region are participating, including at least four in Schenectady County.
They are: Beukendaal, 501 Sacandaga Road, Glenville; Niskayuna Fire District No. 1, 1079 Balltown Road, Niskayuna; Quaker Street Fire Company, 10136 Duanesburg Road, Delanson; and Rotterdam District No. 2, 1400 Curry Road, Rotterdam.
Many other departments, like East Glenville, aren’t organizing formal events, but will have firefighters at the station throughout the weekend to answer questions.