Bucks County Seeks to Reverse Firefighter Shortage - NBC 10 Philadelphia

Bucks County Seeks to Reverse Firefighter Shortage



    A federal grant has been awarded to a Pennsylvania county to deal with a shortage in volunteer firefighters. NBC10's Deanna Durante has the details. (Published Wednesday, April 2, 2014)

    Have a desire to help your neighbor and volunteer with a fire company? Bucks County wants to hear from you.

    There's a shortage of volunteer firefighters in the county and the Bucks County Fire Chiefs and Firefighters Association has launched a campaign to do something about it.

    "It’s an ongoing problem and it’s all aspects of the fire service. It’s not just firefighting," said Upper Makefield firefighter Robert Kay. "We need help with running the business of the firehouse. We need help running carnivals and pancake breakfasts."

    In 1976, there were 300,000 firefighter volunteers state-wide. Today, there are 50,000, according to Pennsylvania State Fire Commissioner Edward A. Mann. To help bridge a shortage gap in Bucks County, officials were awarded a federal grant, called SAFER or Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response, for $750,000 to be used over three years to recruit volunteer firefighters.

    A online campaign was launched to attract volunteers in one of four positions: volunteer firefighter and rescue, volunteer fire police, volunteer associate and volunteer opportunities for teens.

    Northampton fire chief Adam Selisker welcomes the recruitment efforts. To become a fully certified volunteer firefighter, you must complete 180 hours of training, a tough hurdle, according to Selisker. But, his department sees a key to retention is getting volunteers into a shorter orientation program so the recruits can ride on the apparatus in support roles within three months. 

    "It's is one of the most rewarding situations you can be in. Many volunteers end up in full-time careers, springboarded from their volunteerism," Selisker said.

    In addition to the website, advertising and commercials are being run in Regal and AMC Bucks County movie theaters, at large-scale events and on Comcast cable in Bucks County. (Comcast is the parent company of NBC10.com)

    Visits to schools and community colleges have also been added to the outreach plan.

    Benefits include free training, excitement, pride from helping others, according to the website. Kay serves as the co-chair of the recruitment committee and says every department's needs are different, but emphasizes firefighters are wearing more hats than ever before.

    "You have guys running carnivals and leaving to run out to a fire, and there's the time needed to spend with families," Kay said.

    Some Bucks County fire companies have paid support, such as Bensalem, Newtown, Bristol and Northampton. However, every Bucks County fire company has volunteer staff.

    "Your payments and the gratitude you get from the community that you get for saving somebody's house or their pets or their family. There's no payment that can amount to that feeling," said one volunteer in a campaign video.

    For more information and to volunteer, visit here.

    Contact Sarah Glover at 610-668-5580, sarah.glover@nbcuni.com or follow @skyphoto on Twitter.