Fire companies across the state are in need of volunteers, and this weekend will be their ninth annual RecruitNY campaign.
During RecruitNY weekend, fire companies open their doors to the community in an effort to show people what being a volunteer firefighter is like.
A Monday press conference was organized for various elected officials, emergency service officials and volunteer firefighters to discuss the issues that New York is facing with emergency services.
Ed Tase, second vice president of the Firemen's Association of the State of New York, opened the press conference by saying: "New York state would be in real trouble if they didn't have volunteer fire companies."
Tase introduced state Sen. Rob Ortt, R-North Tonawanda, who agrees with Tase. Ortt said New York is proposing to make it harder for volunteer fire companies with legislation that would ban gun raffles, which "absolutely will negatively impact fire companies."
Niagara County Legislator David Godfrey, R-Wilson, a 46-year member of Wilson Volunteer Fire Company No. 1, extolled the virtues of volunteer fire company membership.
"I have felt so good at the end of the call to know I've helped someone," Godfrey said. "The rush that you get knowing that you can help is something you'll never believe until you experience it."
According to Tase, there used to be a waiting list for people to join volunteer fire companies.
"Unfortunately, with two people working in a household today and people having to work three jobs, the time constraint is there," he said.
Another factor discouraging membership is the increased level of training that firefighters are required to undergo now, Godfrey and Tase both said.
FASNY is proposing legislation that would allow prospective volunteers to undergo training in high school, so they can be ready to join a fire company when they graduate.
"They can be ready to join us as soon as they jump in," Tase said.
Tase, a member of South Lockport Volunteer Fire Co., said SLVFC "could always use more help," and Godfrey said the Wilson company roster is down as well.
In addition to protecting lives and property, volunteer firefighters save New Yorkers money. In 2016, FASNY released an economic impact report that concluded the yearly cost of a replacement, all-paid fire service would be $3.87 billion.
Residents looking to see if their fire company is participating in RecruitNY can visit recruitny.org/participation-area or call their fire department using a non-emergency phone number.