Monroe County – Local fire departments fear a slow response time, and while some will say that response time isn’t an issue, what can’t be argued is that the number of volunteer firefighters is dropping.
Monroe County has lost nearly 20-percent of its volunteers over the past eight years, according to Monroe County Fire Coordinator Sam DeRosa.
Tuesday’s fire on Tamarack Drive in Irondequoit received a quick response, but Point Pleasant, whose district it happened to be in, was third to the scene. Chief Steve Derleth said the lack of volunteers was part of the reason.
“It was a little tougher because of the time of day. It was about 2 o’clock in the afternoon and most of our people are at work at that time,” said Derleth.
To attract more volunteers, Point Pleasant lowered the age requirement for volunteers last year.
At age 17, Eric Thomas is already a fireman for Point Pleasant FD.
“You meet a lot of good people doing this,” Thomas said.
In Penfield, recruitment and retention of firefighters has also been a struggle.
“We've advertised through the Penfield community television service. we've also solicited members through our annual fund drive letters, despite that we still don't get many people who are interested in volunteering,” said Chris Ebmeyer, Penfield Fire Chief.
As volunteer departments grapple with a decline in firemen, Monroe County’s mutual-aid system has helped. The system allows department to send firemen to neighboring towns when they are needed; a system that may have saved one man’s life on Tamarack Drive on Tuesday.
While departments struggle, volunteers will tell you they take pride in what they do.
“I want to do this my whole life. I love it here,” said Thomas.
There’s a statewide recruiting effort taking place between April 27th and 28th. For more information you’re asked to contact your local fire department for more information.