Erie County Volunteer Fire Departments Ready To Take Part In State Wide Recruitment Program

April 16, 2012 Updated Apr 16, 2012 at 11:33 PM EDT

By Lou Chilelli

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April 16, 2012 Updated Apr 16, 2012 at 11:33 PM EDT

TOWN OF AMHERST, N.Y. (WKBW) --When it comes to fighting fires... communities that rely on volunteers are in need of more recruits....that's why officials here and all across New York are kicking off a drive to help boost the ranks of volunteer firefighters. Open houses and new bill boards are all part of this state wide push. As part of National Volunteer Week, Volunteer fire departments across New York State are taking part in something called RecruitNY this weekend. Erie County's version is known as VolunteerNY. Fire department open houses are the plan...as each fire company looks to bolster its membership in light of a shrinking population.

"Erie County still has as many neighborhoods and communities in need of protection as ever before and we need the volunteers to man that task," Said Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz, as he was surrounded by firefighters from throughout the area. Behind him, on Grand Island Boulevard in the Town of Tonawanda, was one of the county's new recruitment bill boards.

At the Eggertsville Fire Department in Amherst, volunteers were making an equipment inspection Monday night. That firehouse will be open this weekend, looking to bring in interested people. "Having enough recruits to staff our equipment and respond to alarms is essential. Maintaining a trained group of responders is also critical to the volunteer fire service," said Fire Chief John Buttino.

Once departments get new members...the work begins, to keep them involved. "Retention of volunteers is also very critical. We try to boast about the enormous amount of education that you can gain in the volunteer fire service. About helping others, about the fire service in general...operating equipment...the mathematics used in the pump operation and just taking care of fellow man. It's one of the cornerstones of communities and it's really fundamental and changed my life forever," Buttino added.

Each participating department will have its own program underway this weekend. "We're going to have some personnel on site at the firehouse and they will be explaining what it's like to be a volunteer firefighter...some of the benefits involved and some of the education you can gain and the personal satisfaction you can gain for being a volunteer firefighter," Chief Buttino also said.