WILLIAMSPORT, P.a. (WETM) – Many rural parts of the state have been having difficulty getting the help they need. More and more rural fire departments are seeing a drop in volunteers.
“Documents showed that the state of Pennsylvania in the 1970s had almost 300,000 volunteer firefighters. By the early 2000s, it was down to 30,000. That was a 90% decrease. We have certainly seen it here,” said Joseph Hopple, Fire Chief, Old Lycoming Township Volunteer Fire Company
Fire departments in rural areas within the twin towers need volunteers. These days it is even harder to recruit.
“The city of Williamsport has two colleges Penn College of Technology and Lycoming College. We actively recruit students attending these institutions within the fire service and EMS. We get them into our company while in school here,” said Hopple
To make it easier to recruit the Old Lycoming Township fire staff, They have developed a program to help students transition from college to the firefighter squad.
“They live in programs in which we provide housing for up to six students. They have to work several hours a week to cover that cost. Two of those students have since graduated and now have jobs here,” said Hopple
The Old Lycoming Township Fire Department participates in career fairs whenever available. However, Covid-19 has put a strain on in-person recruiting efforts.
“We’re using our social media sites, our website, talking to people, putting out flyers. We do mailings to the community billboards,” said Hopple
There are strict requirements to follow before joining the fire department.
“People can start volunteering with minimum hours of training. We have safety training and such they go through. To become a firefighter one requires almost 150 hours of training plus a test at the end of it,” said Hopple
The fire crew would feel well equipped with a staff of four fighters if that was possible.
“We’re constantly looking for people to join our fire department,” said Hopple
It makes us happy to receive two to three applicants a month. Occasionally, they get people that moved to our area with training already.
It takes about six months to a year for an applicant to get through their basic training.COVID-19 has made it difficult to complete the course.
The fire department can not pay volunteers at this time. They are adopting other incentives such as providing your company uniforms to keep people interested in volunteer firefighter opportunities.
If you would like to become a volunteer firefighter with the Old Lycoming Township Fire company, visit their website to express your interest.