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Event seeks volunteer firefighters

Photos by Joe McIntyre/staff photographer

Jonathan Gay, center, of Cortland, talks with Cortland firefighter Mark Schroeder, left, and Lt. Jay Thornton Saturday during a firefighter recruitment day.

Jonathan Gay of Cortland spent a few minutes during his Saturday morning speaking with a couple of members of the city of Cortland Fire Department’s volunteer staff.

It was all part of the annual RecruitNY initiative.

Gay said he heard about the event from his mother and decided to check it out. “I wanted to join a program to help the community,” he said Saturday. “It sounded like a good idea and I’m looking to pursue it further.”

Gay had toyed with the idea of joining the fire department for a few years and thought that time seemed right. “I thought, why not, it sounds promising,” he said.

Jay Thornton, a lieutenant with the city’s volunteer contingent and president of the board of engineers, said the department’s volunteer company has around 30 volunteer members and the more the merrier. “There’s no limit yet,” he said.

Greg Maxwell, a volunteer with the department, said he is unsure about the number of volunteers needed for an adequate response. He also said the department hasn’t given much thought to a goal in membership. He did say the department could always use more members.

Five years ago, Thornton said he was in the exact same position Gay was. He was a new guy entering the fire station on the recruitment day. “I had my doubts,” he said. “But it’s really rewarding. Giving back to the community was a big thing.”

Thornton said the only requirements the city has are that person is at least 18 years old; has a valid state driver’s license; and has a high school diploma.

RecruitNY is an initiative of the Firemen’s Association of the State of New York to help more than 300 fire departments gain new membership. The annual recruitment effort, which has been going on for eight years, was hosted around the state on Saturday and Sunday.

According to the Firemen’s Association of the State of New York, during the weekend members of the public were able to get a taste of what it means to be a volunteer firefighter through firehouse tours and demonstrations of firefighting techniques.

“It is a privilege and an honor to serve as a volunteer firefighter,” said association President Ken Pienkowski in an email. “Serving as a volunteer firefighter means serving one’s community, but it also means joining a very close, very special family. We are always heartened to see New Yorkers turn out to support their volunteer firefighters, and expect to see many faces, both familiar and new, during this year’s RecruitNY event.”

Other than at the city department, members of the Cortlandville Fire Department stood by at their station along Route 13 for the recruitment efforts.

Charlie Duffy, the chairman of the membership committee for the Cortlandville Fire Department, said the department has more than 60 active members. “There is no limit to the amount we can get,” he said.

Duffy said the department was looking for recruits who:

• Are outgoing.
• Work well with a team.
• Take orders well.
• Are at least 16 years old.

Both the Cortlandville and city departments will do background checks on any potential volunteers, as well as an interview process. “We could have six walk in and six approved,” Duffy said. “It’s really just the person.”

Andrew Adsit is Cortlandville’s newest recruit. Adsit joined the department three months ago and Saturday was the final day of his basic exterior training.

Adsit said he joined the department to help the community. “There is a lot of training and so much to learn,” he said.

There is one thing Adsit would tell anyone who is maybe interested in joining a volunteer department. “We’re all here to help the community,” he said. “Whether it’s rain or shine, we show up.”

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