Fire Department seeking new applicants
Looking for new volunteer firefighters and EMS responders is nothing new for the Manchester Township Fire Department (MTFD), but they’ve recently gone public in their effort to increase their ranks.
Fire Chief Bill Scully says, “We’re always looking for new blood–but we haven’t really had a plan for how to do it. We decided to post a sign on the Township Hall and see if we could recruit new members by making people more aware of the need.”
Like most other volunteer organizations, Scully said, it’s become harder in recent years to attract help.
“People often work outside of town; they have family lives and other interests; sometimes they just don’t have the time to volunteer,” he admits.
Despite this, there have been relatively minor changes in the way the fire department operates over the years. Currently there are 27 members on the MTFD roster, but a few have become inactive in recent months. Others are getting older or have had life changes that make it harder to respond to all calls, which can happen at any time of the day or night.
“For the past 10 years or so, we have averaged about one call per day,” Scully explains. “Obviously some days we have more than one, and other days we have none, but it averages about one per day. About 80 percent of those calls are rescue calls–for people who are sick, or have been in a vehicle crash, etc. The other 20 percent is fire-related calls; whether it’s an actual fire, wires down, or a gas leak.
“It’s a big commitment, but we’ve always done it fairly well.”
Scully added that if they can’t get enough people (preferably three or four responders) to show up on every run, the township will eventually need to talk about hiring full-time rather than relying on Manchester’s long-time tradition of volunteers.
“A couple of years ago we created an EMS-only position,” Scully said. “That way they can start with a smaller number of hours of training. I’d love to be able to hire five or six people, some of whom are available during the day–that’s where we are really lacking in responders. Sometimes we only have one or two people running calls between 8 am and 4 pm.”
Primary among the qualifications for joining the department is a willingness to serve. The “volunteer” positions do receive payment for each call they attend, at a rate of $14-16 per hour, depending on their level of training and expertise. The EMS training requires EMT certification, which is about 150-180 hours of classes. Training for Firefighter 1 and 2 includes 300 hours of classes, plus incident command and hazardous materials training courses. Once certified, the firefighters can begin to respond to fire calls. The cost of training is covered by Manchester Township.
Forty or 50 years ago, the majority of volunteer fire fighters in Manchester lived and worked within a small radius surrounding the village. Their employers were aware of the importance of their service and often granted time off to respond, as a service to the community. Now, fewer businesses and industries are in the area, and even those who are may not be able to afford to let employees leave on the spur of the moment when the alarm sounds.
Scully stressed that this is not a local problem, though–volunteer fire departments across the nation face similar staffing issues.
He says he’s had a few calls since they hung the sign just before Halloween, and he considers that a good response. He hopes that others who read this article might consider applying as well. And although Scully, himself a second-generation MTFD member, has lived here his entire life, he wants newcomers to the community, as well as those who’ve lived here for a while, to know they’re welcome to apply.
You may contact the Manchester Township Fire Department at 734-428-9439.