Last November, the Neshannock Township Volunteer Fire Company celebrated its 75th year in existence as a volunteer fire company. The fire company and its 75 years of history and achievement was honored at a dinner, attended by the current and past membership, political leaders as well as other important figures in our history. Guests were treated to a keynote speech by Chief Douglas Forsman, a friend of the fire company, who has held various Fire Chief positions across the nation as well as serving as the head of fire service programs at the widely renowned Oklahoma State University School of Fire Protection and Safety. One of the areas that the volunteer fire service has struggled nationally over the years is in finding and retaining quality candidates. It is fitting to review this in the context of the NTVFC and our 75-year history—as we have shared some of these struggles locally. In days gone by, volunteer fire companies served as social hubs of the community and many departments had full rosters and waiting lists to join — ours was no exception.

Now, our citizens are very busy–whether it be working several jobs, being involved with their children’s activities, or simply an unwillingness to volunteer. The amount of training and physical demands of being a firefighter today are much different than 75 years ago. There is also the fact that the average age of the population has risen in our area. Retirees may volunteer in other areas, but do not typically participate in something as physically demanding as firefighting. Finally, the lack of local jobs that retain young people in this area create a challenging recruitment and retention environment for volunteer organizations, especially the fire service.

The leadership of the NTVFC has taken measures over the years to lessen the impact of the declining numbers of volunteers we have experienced. We have chosen to focus on the quality of service and focused training. We have implemented incentive programs to attempt to increase our retention. We also take steps to ensure our members are provided with state of the art protective gear, equipment and technology. The leadership has also implemented changes to our response patterns, enhanced mutual aid agreements with our neighboring departments and made modifications to our voluntary staffing program to ensure a quick and professional response to emergencies no matter the time of day.

However small our numbers may be, our emphasis on professionalism and leadership have been means by which we can recruit additional firefighters. This year, we are stepping up our efforts to recruit more firefighters and retain the ones that we have. Our best means of recruitment has been through word of mouth in the past. We are asking you to consider volunteering, or reaching out to someone who you think may be a good candidate for our team.

In the changing world we live in today, the fire service is in dire need of leaders. We are looking for people who want to join us in our core mission of saving lives and protecting property. Please contact our station at 724-654-4800, or visit www.neshannockfire.com/join for more details on how to join our team.