NORWICH — The City of Norwich Fire Department (NFD), as well as a few other Chenango County fire departments, are looking to recruit volunteers by participating in the 13th annual RecruitNY weekend. The NFD event will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sunday, April 24 at the Norwich Firehouse.
RecruitNY is an initiative created by the Firefighters Association of the State of New York (FASNY) that aims "to help increase membership in local volunteer fire departments."
“We are happy that several hundred volunteer departments will be participating in our 13th annual RecruitNY campaign. We invite all New Yorkers to attend an open house and experience what it means to be a volunteer firefighter,” said FASNY President John Farrell. “RecruitNY weekend can provide people with the opportunity to interact with the responders who are dedicated to protecting them.”
NFD Chief Jan Papelino said the Norwich event is an opportunity to see and learn more about firefighting equipment, and watch demonstrations on how they're used.
"They’ll be able to see, maybe participate, in some extrication demonstration, rope rescue stuff, maybe put on a self contained breathing apparatus, maybe go through some of the apparatus and the compartments and look and see what’s on them," he said. "Kind of a walkthrough of the apparatus and what each one is, and what it does, and what it carries."
Demonstrations will be held in the parking lot behind the firehouse, weather permitting. In the case of inclement weather, demonstrations will be held inside the apparatus bay.
For those who sign up to volunteer, the NFD will also perform criminal, arson, and sex offender background checks in compliance with state requirements. From there, volunteers must complete the minimum required training, which will be discussed at the recruitment event.
"We would explain to them that if they join they have to take the basic exterior fire operations (BEFO) class, and kind of what that pertains," Papelino explained. "79 hours is the minimum requirement they have to take once they join, and that’s usually offered like two times a year here in Chenango County. And then if they want to be an interior firefighter, they need to take the interior firefighter operations (IFO) class, and that’s an additional 49 hours of training."
Papelino said the Norwich Fire Department is always looking for more volunteers, and many of their past volunteers have even gone on to become career firefighters.
"If you’re going to be a career firefighter here, you have to have what we call a 229 certification. So you either have to take a whole series of hour-each classes through State Fire, or you have to go to one of the fire academies and spend about, what’s going to become about 15 weeks there, five days a week, to get certified," Papelino said.
"There’s a lot of classroom instruction, but there's also a significant amount of hands-on and actual practice. You know, you’re actually going through live fire scenarios and car fires," he continued. "We do some of that too in the IFO class, but it’s just much more structured and a lot more information at the fire academy."
Four other Chenango County fire departments are currently registered with RecruitNY to hold events on Saturday, April 23. A full list of participating departments in New York State can be found at recruitny.org/participation-area.
The Village of Oxford Fire Department will hold their event from 1 to 5 p.m., and have "exhibitions and activities in firefighting and EMS, walkthrough and equipment tours. On-site questions with answers and applications. Training demonstrations including SCBA, hose and nozzle handling, automobile extrication, thermal imaging evolutions, EMS demonstrations," according to the RecruitNY website.
The Afton Hose Co. event will be from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.; the Genegantslet Fire Company, located in Smithville Flats, will hold their event from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.; and the Bainbridge Fire Department will have an open house and displays from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Additionally, Papelino said some fire departments will hold chicken barbecues in lieu of RecruitNY events, so they may not be listed on the website.
For those who can't make it to their fire department's recruiting event, Papelino recommends they contact their local department to discuss volunteering opportunities, or stop by to pick up an application.
"The bottom line is, I think every department in the county, typically, is looking for more members. So whether they live in Norwich or Plymouth or Smyrna or Sherburne or anywhere," he said. "If they’ve got any inkling as to whether they want to join or not, they should go see somebody or stop down at their firehouse and get an application."
For more information on FASNY or RecruitNY, visit fasny.com or recruitny.org.