Posted at: 08/20/2012 5:18 PM
| Updated at: 08/20/2012 6:16 PM
By: Bill Lambdin
Photo Credit: Ray Zanta
WESTERLO - Drive by a fire house in a volunteer district almost anywhere, there's a good chance you'll see a sign seeking personnel.
Staffing can be a problem, especially weekdays. So many department members just aren't available.
"A lot of people here go to Albany every day so it's a 30-35 minute commute," said Westerlo Deputy Chief Kevin Flensted. "So it's kind of difficult for them even if they could leave their jobs to be able to come back here even during the day to fight the fires."
You can't just show up at a volunteer department, grab a hose and start fighting fires. There are strict training requirements.
"The class consisting of 87 hours of instruction is taught by New York State," said Flensted. "Typically it is taught on nights and weekends. 22 to 26 classes over 8 to 10 weeks and many trips from the Hill Towns to either Bethlehem, Guilderland Center, or Colonie for training facilities. Just under $600 in fuel to attend the class alone, in addition to the meetings, drills and actual fire calls."
The fire chiefs, working with county leaders, have obtained a 429-thousand dollar federal grant.
It will pay for two part-time recruitment coordinators, as well as the cost of fire equipment, physicals and other expenses.
The goal is to add four volunteer fire fighters at each of the 12 departments involved.