By Cady Kuzmich
Halfmoon — The West Crescent and Jonesville Fire Departments are participating in the statewide “RECRUIT NY” campaign this month in an effort to bring in more volunteer firefighters.
Open houses will be held between 10 am and 2 pm April 23 and between 8 am and 2 pm April 24 at the West Crescent Fire House at 1440 Crescent Road in Halfmoon. The Jonesville Fire Department’s open house will be held between 11 am and 3 pm April 23 at two locations — Station one at 953 Main Street in Clifton Park and at Station two at 679 Route 146-A in Clifton Park.
RECRUIT NY is a statewide campaign to bring people together with their area fire departments in order to stimulate a dialogue and aid local fire department’s’ recruitment efforts. Those who attend will have the opportunity to learn what qualities local fire departments are looking for in their volunteers.
During the open house, the departments will offer tours of their stations and equipment. Visitors will be able to try on firefighter gear for themselves, as well. The West Crescent Fire Department will host a breakfast from 8 am to 11 am April 24.
Citing dwindling numbers of volunteer firefighters statewide, a spokesperson for The West Crescent Fire Department said, “Like most volunteer fire departments, the West Crescent Fire Department needs to bolster its emergency responder numbers so it can continue to provide the optimum level of protection for its residents.”
Chief Patrick Champagne of Jonesville’s Volunteer Fire Department said his department draws volunteers from all walks of life, but added their numbers are down. “We have white collar workers, blue collar workers and retirees,” he said. He said Jonesville recently lost members who decided to relocate due to job opportunities elsewhere. A few years ago, he said, their membership was hovering around 100 volunteers while today they are down to about 65 or 70.
Champagne has been a volunteer firefighter for 27 years and chief for three. “ I have a pedigree that I followed. Got a taste of it. Liked it and thought I could contribute,” he said. Champagne also works as a paralegal in Albany.
“Everybody here is looking to do the right thing,” he said of the volunteers, adding,“Our training is second to none. It’s quite a commitment.”
Champagne said volunteers must be at least 16 years old but noted there are ways for younger kids to get involved such as the Explorer Post for kids ages 14 to 20. “They’re not permitted to respond,” he assured. “It’s just a way to get their feet wet,” said Champagne. He oversees the Explorer Post and noted more and more young women are joining the ranks — he said four or five girls have joined the explorer post in recent months.
“The majority of people here understand the team mentality,” said Champagne. He added, “The fire service isn’t for everybody. It takes a certain type of person.”