That got your attention. The title may have brought to mind firefighter calendars you may have seen where firefighters in various levels of undress are displayed in a charitable effort to sell calendars in support of a good cause. Everyone loves firefighters, don’t they? Yet, for some time, the message board in front of the Gardiner Fire & Rescue has a request posted on it for volunteer firefighters and EMS personnel. This situation begs the question, “Why are there not more people volunteering for these opportunities?” Gardiner is not alone in this. Around the country, the number of volunteers keeps decreasing while call volumes are on the rise. This implies that there is an urgent need for a new group of volunteer firefighters and the opportunity awaits those who are willing to serve. Of course, the best place to begin is where you live, in Gardiner. Where I grew up, in a small town in Northern New Jersey, volunteer firefighting was considered a noble and exciting community activity. When the sirens sounded the alarm, the volunteers stopped whatever they were doing, jumped into their vehicles, and raced to the scene, sirens blazing and lights flashing. As a child, my impression was that, although lives were at stake and fires were a deadly serious matter, the volunteers seemed to really enjoy the camaraderie and being of service, and without a doubt, they also enjoyed the action, which for them, seemed to me to be intoxicating. The firefighters were all from the town they served in, and the Annual Volunteer Firefighters’ Picnic was the event of the Summer. The entire community looked forward to it every year. The cooking & baking competitions were always well attended, and the food & games were awesome: three-legged races, egg toss competition, corn & pie-eating contests, and my personal favorite, the fat man’s race, which would never be called that today, but was hilarious, innocent fun at the time.
So today, is firefighting not as rewarding, heroic, and downright glamorous as it used to be? No, firefighting itself isn’t the issue. Some people feel they are too busy, and some may not feel they are physically fit enough to participate, but they could be wrong. Remember the fat man’s race mentioned earlier? Every one of the 15-20 people in that race was big with a capital B, but they volunteered their time and energy knowing that it is the team, not any one firefighter who “saves the day.” So, in 2022, what are some reasons that make volunteering at the Gardiner Fire & Rescue a great idea? First, despite being an unpaid service, volunteer firefighting comes with a lot of potential benefits. So, if you are currently wondering about the possibility of becoming a volunteer firefighter but haven’t made up your mind, below are some great reasons why you should become a volunteer firefighter.
Build your resume — If being a paid firefighter is a goal, volunteering provides a priceless experience that looks terrific on your resume. If you didn’t know, when trying to get hired at a career fire department, fire chiefs and officers almost always favor the candidate who already has some level of experience. While working as a volunteer firefighter, you will likely undergo additional training to hone your skills even further. You will receive wildfire training, operational training, advanced medical training as well as leadership training which can lead to better future opportunities. Even if becoming a professional firefighter is not your goal, employers, colleges, etc. will view you as a serious, community-minded, responsible, and teachable individual.
Pride, respect & friendship — Become someone who is a recognized asset to our community–This is primarily because the work Gardiner Fire & Rescue performs has a direct impact on the people you know and interact with daily. Saving lives and property and serving people is arguably the primary reason why you would want to enter into a public safety career, which leads us to the next point. As a volunteer firefighter, you will benefit from a sense of accomplishment and achievement that comes with the type of work you’ll do. You will learn new skills from the best firefighting experts available, make new friends, and be part of a band of individuals making a real difference in Gardiner. You will earn more respect from people within your community because you work for their safety and overall welfare. What’s more, your primary mission will be to make a major difference in the lives of the people, and such a rare accomplishment will likely give you an immeasurable sense of pride and satisfaction.
Rewarding work, perks & free training — It’s NOT a full-time job–Typically, volunteers are offered hours for monthly commitments. You choose the schedule that suits you, leaving room for your paying job and daily family responsibilities. However, when you are there volunteering, it is hard and super rewarding work. There are other perks too: Money spent on gas and vehicle expenses during service can be written off your tax return and Gardiner Fire & Rescue’s LOSAP (Length of Service Award Program) is a pension-like program designed to help recruit and retain volunteer firefighters. It offers some small financial rewards based upon the number of years of service as well as other factors. You won’t move to Maui on it, but it is a small thank you for years of service. It is also worthy of mention again that the State pays for training, such as advanced to basic rescue, fire, leadership, and EMS courses that can be used in other areas of life, and it’s all free!