CHENANGO COUNTY – With so many technological changes and competition on a global scale, American culture and mores are ever evolving. Fire departments across the county and in New York, there is a traditional sense of fellowship and a retention of fundamental values. Matthew Beckwith, Fire Coordinator for the Chenango County Bureau of Fire, said, “The fire department was built on the neighbor helping neighbor concept.”
With 21 departments in Chenango County that serve more than 50,000 residents and responded to 9,573 calls just last year, it is remarkable and inspiring that all departments (except one) are 100 percent volunteer based.
Despite such a strong volunteer base, there is still a great need for more volunteers. Beckwith explained that the culture of volunteering has changed in the past 20-25 years. People are busier and feel they have less time to volunteer compared to generations past. Yet, this is not the only issue. “People (firefighters) are moving to larger cities because they have to go where the money is,” Beckwith said.
Those who do wish to volunteer are also finding that many employers are more hesitant to let their employees respond to emergency calls during work hours. While this makes volunteering more difficult, Beckwith explained there is an even greater need for volunteers in the smaller, outlying communities like McDonough and North Norwich.