‘You’ve got to keep ‘em busy’

The training center grant, the need for firefighters and the range of jobs to be done

By TED WADDELL
Posted 4/27/22

SWAN LAKE, NY — The big news in the Sullivan County Bureau of Fire during the past few months is the recent announcement of a $250,000 grant.

In published reports from January 2022, the …

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‘You’ve got to keep ‘em busy’

The training center grant, the need for firefighters and the range of jobs to be done

Posted

SWAN LAKE, NY — The big news in the Sullivan County Bureau of Fire during the past few months is the recent announcement of a $250,000 grant.

In published reports from January 2022, the county and New York State assemblywoman Aileen Gunther announced that the Sullivan County emergency training center was awarded the grant to rebuild the training tower, in which firefighters learn to fight interior structure fires, and to construct a much-needed on-site storage facility.

The grant is in two parts: $55,000 in upgrades to the tower to make it safer for the firefighters, and $195,000 to build a pole barn as the existing garage is maxed out in capacity.

In addition, the county will kick in $54,000 for in-kind services of labor and materials. That has been allocated in the current budget.

With the assistance of Gunther’s office, the Dormitory Authority of the State of New York, and the Municipal Facilities Assistance Program, the county stands to be reimbursed for up to $250,000 of the projected total cost of $304,000.

“Importantly, this facility is used by first responders across the county,” said Gunther earlier this year. “They do a tremendous job of keeping our county safe and need the ability to train in a proper facility.”

John Hauschild, Sullivan County fire coordinator, who also serves as the Sullivan County emergency services training center coordinator, said the rehab to the fire-training tower will provide updated fireproofing, including replacing stainless steel panels. The new storage building will provide housing space for donated fire apparatus from the Rock Hill and Monticello fire departments.         

Reflecting on the recent training seminar, he said, “It was great; the attendance was awesome… We had 105 people registered from 25 in-county fire departments, 11 departments outside Sullivan County, seven ambulance corps and two out-of-state fire departments—one from Pennsylvania and one from New Jersey. The interaction was unbelievable; a lot of people opened up and participated, gave their point of view… It was noteworthy in that people from fire departments and EMS picked up so much… It was huge.”

The course was presented at the Kartrite in Monticello by two veteran firefighters representing the Professional Brotherhood: assistant chief Brian Soller of the Rock Hill Fire Department, and his training partner Tom Andryshak, the assistant chief of the Florida Fire Department in Orange County, NY.

The Sullivan County Bureau of Fire picked up several new recruits last August at the Bagel Festival in Monticello and at the Little World’s Fair in Grahamsville. This year it is planning a repeat showing, hoping to get more folks to sign up as volunteer firefighters in service to the local community.

Rural volunteer fire companies and ambulance corps are struggling to find volunteers.  In Sullivan County, the local bureaus of fire and EMS are constantly trying to add new members to the ranks of approximately 1,750 volunteer firefighters in the county.

Asked about the state of local volunteerism, Hauschilod replied, “Like everybody else we’re trying to get people to come in, and the biggest thing is that when you get them in the door, it’s keeping them.”

He went on to explain that without strong leadership at the top of the departments, “People are going to leave, because you’ve got to keep ‘em busy and active. If you have somebody who wants to join, you’ve got to jump right on it, don’t say, ‘I’ll get back to you,’ or ‘Come back in two weeks’ [but instead say] ‘Come on in, look at the station to see the equipment. Here’s an application.’”

Hauschild stressed that if you volunteer with a fire department, it doesn’t automatically mean that you’re going to be rushing into blazing structure fires.

“A lot of people think that if you join a fire department, you have to run into a burning building,” he said. “You don’t. You can learn to drive apparatus, operate the pumps, become a SCUBA diver, or be fire police. There’s a job for you!”

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