Officials Push for More Volunteers at Fire Departments

A lineup of local and county officials pitched the value and benefits of joining fire departments as volunteers Thursday.

Noting the shortage of volunteers, especially compared to previous decades, and the cost of creating full-time, professional departments, officials, including Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone, Suffolk County Legislators Steve Flotteron and Dominick Thorne, leaders of the Dix Hills Fire Department and others, said, “Come help us” in a variety of ways. “We need your help,” one firefighter leader said, while others noted the variety of calls firefighters experience.

“When a whistle blows, a special group of people jumpes into action,” Todd Cohen, a Dix Hills fire commissioner, said. That could mean responding to a fire, a medical need, “kids with their fingers stuck in everything, a dog on a roof” or other calls.

Being a volunteer, one speaker said, meant all the difference between participating life in the community instead of just observing.

Firefighters, Bellone said, have been called on for “everything from dealing with SuperStorm Sandy to a global pandemic.” Joining a department is “a way to give back” to the community.

The press conference at the Dix Hills Fire Department was part of the runup to this weekend’s RecruitNY Weekend at firehouses across the state to try to bring more volunteers onboard.

The Firefighters Association of the State of New York  noted that recruitment was designed to “protect lives and wallets,” through volunteer departments, with an estimate that the state would need 31,000 fulltime professionals to replace all the volunteers, at a cost in the billions.

Firehouses around the area, including Dix Hills, are hosting events this weekend. Check with your local department for details.

Deputy Huntington Supervisor John McCarron and Highway Superintendent Andre Sorrentino, who is also a fire commissioner, also participated in the event, which was briefly interrupted by the sound of sirens as emergency vehicles passed by on their way to a call.

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