Seven volunteers may not sound like much, but in the small rural village of Delanson it could be life-saving.
The Delanson Volunteer Fire Department hopes to go from 13 volunteers to 20 thanks to a bill recently signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
The bill, authored by Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara, D-Rotterdam, and sponsored in the Senate by Cecilia Tkaczyk, D-Duanesburg, waives the requirement that no more than 45 percent of the department’s firefighters can live outside of the village of Delanson.
The department has had difficulty recruiting due to the village’s small population and rural nature.
“Assemblyman Santabarbara’s legislation will let us bring in some of the volunteers we had to turn away previously and puts us in a better position to serve our community,” Delanson fire Chief Kevin Morrison said.
To promote the expanded eligibility pool, the fire department and Santabarbara will host an open house from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 4, at the station at 1797 Main St. Anyone interested in joining the department before then should call 895-2100 or email email@example.com.
Santabarbara was confident that the department will be able to get the numbers it needs.
“Delanson families will be better protected in case of an emergency now that the fire department has an expanded pool of eligible volunteers,” he said.
Twenty firefighters would be adequate for the department to respond to its more than 100 calls per year, Morrison said.
“Anywhere from twenty to thirty would be ideal,” he said.
Thirteen, however, causes problems.
“I have limited drivers for my trucks, and that’s my biggest problem right now,” he said, “especially during the nighttime hours.”
Robert Leonard, spokesman for the Firemen’s Association of the State of New York, said a number of departments struggling with recruitment have been granted similar waivers. He said FASNY understands the pressures on families where both parents work and some parents hold multiple jobs, “so we think any solutions that can facilitate people volunteering where and when they can should be considered.”
Morrison said he’s hoping some town of Duanesburg residents who live close to the Delanson station on Main Street will be interested in volunteering. He also said the department’s doors are open to people who are denied membership elsewhere.
“Some of the surrounding fire departments are pretty well staffed,” he said.” And if somebody goes to those departments and they say, ‘Sorry, we can’t take you on as a member right now,’ they can always come to our department just to get a foot in the door and get a feel for firefighting.”