The got the okay from the council Tuesday to move ahead with the creation of an associate membership branch.
Fire Chief Richard Giarratana and Asst. Chief Pat Hayes addressed the many concerns and criticisms about the associate branch which have been since it was first proposed.
Resident Susan Collins echoed some of those concerns Tuesday night. “If they are going to help serve refreshments and clean the fire house how does that help in an emergency?” she asked.
But the chiefs said the associate members, which will act as support staff, will do much more to help the shrinking department than serve refreshments and assist with events.
Although being on hand with refreshments is one of the roles these associate members could play, the fire chiefs said that specific duties crucial to what is needed during emergency calls can be assigned based on the associate member’s qualifications.
By having someone qualified to operate radios, for example, frees up a firefighter to do his job in the line of duty, Hayes explained. With associate members doing things such as public relations at events, firefighters can be available to respond to a call, the chiefs said.
It is hoped that many of the former volunteers who left due to the inability to devote the required time to firefighting could come back as associate members, and would therefore be qualified to assist in some areas, they explained.
As for charges that this would allow the department to take people off the street and make them firefighters Giarratana said, “In no way shape or form would they ever perform a firefighting function. They are not schooled to do it and I wouldn’t let them do it.”
Despite the loss of members there is not much difference in the amount of calls being made now compared to when the department had more volunteers, Hayes said.
As for why so many volunteers left, Hayes said there were some who left for personal reasons but in most cases it had to do with not being able to make their percentages. Those volunteers were notified by letter which led to the resignation of some and the termination of three who Hayes said did not follow through with what was requested.
Hayes explained that the department may have appeared to be larger in numbers but it’s the core group of members that are still on the team today that has been making the calls.
Giarratana told Patch they will continue to go out to recruit firefighters but he knows it’s difficult to find those that can make the commitment. Training alone includes 36 weeks at the fire academy, he said.
“This volunteer fire department runs in par with paid fire departments throughout America. We are proud of that and we are still holding it together,” said Hayes.
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