Wanted: A few great people

PHOTOGRAPHER:
Preston Skaine and Anthony Bailey, both of Gloversville, discuss volunteer firefighter opportunities with Kane Rokjer, a lieutenant with the Berkshire Volunteer Fire Company in Gloversville during the company’s recruitment open house Saturday. (The Leader-Herald/Eric Retzlaff)

GLOVERSVILLE — The Berkshire Volunteer Fire District and other fire companies statewide have been putting increased effort in recent years into recruiting volunteers.

The Berkshire company participated Saturday in the seventh annual RecruitNY initiative of the Firemen’s Association of the State of New York and opened its doors to the public at the firehouse, 320 Steele Ave. Ext.

RecruitNY was created by FASNY because volunteer fire companies have had difficulty recruiting and retaining volunteers, and the volunteers are needed to maintain an optimal level of protection for the community.

Last year, more than 500 fire departments in 58 counties held recruitment open houses. According to FASNY, the open houses have helped stem decades of decline in volunteers through advertising, a college tuition reimbursement program and recruit training classes, and it has added more than 20,000 to the ranks of fire departments across the state.

Kane Rokjer, a lieutenant with the company, said being a volunteer requires a commitment of time to training, fundraising and public fire prevention efforts besides the obvious involvement in emergency response.

“It takes time to become a firefighter,” with the first three to four months being the hardest, he said. But the fire company becomes “pretty much like a second family,” he said.

RecruitNY supplements what is occurring all the time—word-of-mouth outreach by fire company members. New members are most often recruited by having a friend or family members who is a volunteer, he said.

By those means, “we have gotten quite a few new members,” Rokjer said.

The Berkshire company conducted tours of the station and firefighter apparatus, allowing visitors to try on firefighter gear and provided informational activities throughout the firehouse. The firefighters discussed the requirements to be a volunteer and conducted demonstrations, answered questions and let visitors know how to get involved in fire departments.

“This [was] a great opportunity for our neighbors to observe the exciting tasks of a firefighter. We hope our recruitment day will inspire other area residents to join our fire service family,” said Bob Fancher, the fire chief.

For more information or to find out what other fire departments participated in RecruitNY, visit www.recruitny.org/participation-area/ or contact area fire departments on a non-emergency phone number or its website.

By Patricia Older

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