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CNY volunteer fire departments opening their doors this weekend

Cicero Fire Department's Jon Barrett addresses the media about the upcoming recruitment efforts.
John Smith / WAER News
Cicero Fire Department's Jon Barrett addresses the media about the upcoming recruitment efforts.

Local volunteer fire departments are in dire need of new recruits as the amount of volunteer firefighters has decreased by 40,000 across the state over the past two decades. Many fire stations are holding open houses this weekend during the 15th annual “Recruit N-Y” campaign organized by the Firefighters Association of the State of New York. Several area firefighters gathered at the new Cicero Fire Department today to raise awareness. FASNY recruitment and retention chair, Chief Dave Glenn says the recruitment weekend is important to increase volunteers.

“This is to ensure all firefighters and fire departments have the help and continue the optimal level of protection for their residents.”

Fire officials like Onondaga County EMS Director of Fire Gerry Payne stress there are also various volunteer positions within a volunteer fire department.

“You no longer have to just join to be an interior firefighter.” You can be an exterior firefighter, you can be an EMS provider only, you could be scene support. You could be auxiliary or associate members, non-emergency administration or support staff.”

The County has developed various incentives to recruit and retain more volunteers. Executive Ryan McMahon says they’re looking to do more.

“Certainly we know we have to do more to incentivize at the government level, whether it's property tax abatements, which we've done… looking at other ways to incentivize participation financially. But, the value of giving back to your community and saving a life there is no price tag on that.”

At the state level, Assemblyman Al Stirpe says New York passed legislation in recent years to help firefighter recruitment efforts, including property tax credits and the firefighter presumptive cancer bill. He is working on more legislation that calls for reimbursement of all volunteer firefighters. Stirpe says they’re worth it.

“Volunteer firefighters save over four billion dollars a year to New York State taxpayers. That’s a big number. And it’s not something I think we can just let fade away.”

Stirpe and fire officials suggest early recruitment efforts for high school and college students and

discounted tuition for SUNY students to boost volunteer levels. Click here for more information about the recruitment weekend, or herefor more information about opportunities at volunteer opportunities at fire departments in Onondaga County.