Volunteer Fire Departments Struggle

Fire departments struggle with little help.

Woodhull Fire Crews Battle Flames and LAck of Volunteers

May 2, 2012

Southern Tier (WENY) - Locally and across the state, volunteer fire departments are trying very hard to recruit more firefighters, without much luck. Events like last months "RecruitNY initiative" are designed to bring in more help to local departments. Today's fire in Woodhull is an example of how local departments are struggling to deal with the lack of recruits. The firefighters I talked to today were exhausted. They say being understaffed hurts their production and stamina during a fire. Volunteer fire departments like the ones that fought the structure fire in Woodhull this morning are struggling. They're understaffed and over worked.

Jasper VFD Asst. Chief Scott Hyman has been a firefighter most of his life and knows how much work needs to be done.

“When your fully packed up it takes a lot of energy and fighting a fire is a whole lot more energy and even if you cant do interior stuff just helping around the outside that's a big thing.”

Today was a good example of how understaffed volunteer departments are. Five different departments responded and three more were on stand by, one of those was in Pennsylvania. Distance becomes a problem when the few fire fighters on scene need a break. Chief James Martinof the Woodhull Vol. FD says its important to get fresh guys in to fight the fire.

“We do have to give them a break we give them like a 15 to 20 minute rehab that's why we call the fresh guys in to take over.”

“There's a tax incentive to be a firefighter or ems its 200 dollars tax deduction every year but you do more than 200 dollars worth of stuff,” says Hyman.

Most employers won't compensate firefighters if they are called to a fire during business hours. Even though their life is on the line most volunteers feel a sense of duty to their community.

“When we do something like this it means some one is in trouble,” says Hyman. “So it's a give and take there you know when the tones drop you gotta go help but going to help people that’s what makes it worth the while.”