OSWEGO, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — Across New York state, the 11th Annual RecruitNY campaign kicked off on Wednesday in an effort to increase volunteer firefighters.
That push for more firefighters greatly impacts rural areas like Oswego County.
“It’s hard to come up with what’s going to create that light to come on and say, I want to volunteer,” – Don Forbes, Oswego County Fire Coordinator
Nowadays, it’s rare you’ll come across someone like Don Forbes. He’s a fourth generation firefighter who’s been serving his community for nearly 50 years!
As the fire coordinator of Oswego County, he and many others are trying to spark a fire in people to volunteer.
“Right now, we’re at a very critical spot with volunteers and not just Oswego County, but everywhere in New York state and everywhere in the country,” Forbes explained
There are a total of 34 fire stations across Oswego County, 32 volunteer and two career departments, but the size of each crew varies tremendously.
Where we might be able to handle a moderate sized fire with what we call our ‘first alarm automatic,’ which would be three departments total. Today, a lot of departments end up going with their second alarm so that they bring more manpower. We’re using twice as many departments to get the same number of people to handle the situation.Don Forbes, Fire Coordinator, Oswego County
For the past two years, the Oswego County fire advisory board has been coming up with better ways for recruitment and retention.
Forbes said the county is looking at a potential paid, on-call option for crew members in the future.
Today, the average person in New York now stays with a fire department for about five to seven years.
Forbes says the departments aren’t looking for the next veteran to join, but they’re searching for someone who’s dedicated to giving as much time to the job as possible.
When I started as a firefighter volunteering, it was you donated whatever time it took what needed to be done. Today, it’s ‘I can give you 10 hours a week.’
We need to change the fire department culture in the volunteer side to accept that 10 hours a week. Whatever time they could give is better than no time at all.Don Forbes, Fire Coordinator, Oswego County
Forbes is hoping more people answer that call in Oswego County and beyond.