“No pay. Cool hat.” The billboard outside the Springs Firehouse reaches out, drolly, with a request for volunteers to supplement dwindling ranks. Fire departments across the state are all suffering a dearth of volunteers, State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. said.
Legislation signed into law by Governor Andrew Cuomo this week might help.
Sponsored by the local lawmaker, the law directs the Office of Fire Prevention and Control to form a task force and issue a report relating to volunteer firefighter recruitment and retention.
The legislation was primarily generated by firefighter associations calling out for assistance with filling their rosters of volunteers. The need was highlighted even more with the demand on first responders because of COVID, Mr. Thiele explained. Here on the East End, among the issues that impact retention and recruitment the most include the high cost of living, housing costs in the area, and the aging out of current volunteers.
“Volunteer firefighters provide high quality protection and save communities millions of dollars in tax burden,” Mr. Thiele pointed out.
The task force will seek to not only identify the issues that impact recruitment and retention the most, but also develop a menu of incentives and tools to help the next generation of volunteers.
To date, the Firemen’s Association of the State of New York, Association of Fire Districts of New York, State Association of Fire Chiefs and New York State Fire Coordinators have done a remarkable job in doing what they can to be of assistance, but the time has come for the state to step up in taking an active role in resolving this issue, Mr. Thiele said.
The new law will bring together a group of key decision makers from relevant state agencies, firefighter associations and policy makers to determine necessary solutions to fortify the ranks of the volunteer firefighters across New York.