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Local firefighters weigh in on alarming decrease of volunteers

TOWN OF MAINE (WBNG) — Town of Maine Firefighters said the “national problem” of fewer volunteer firefighters than in years past is not becuase of lack of dedication, but change in living.

“People’s lifestyles have changed,” explained Town of Maine Assistant Fire Chief David Silverstein. “I don’t think the culture has changed that much there’s still dedication.”

Silverstein started volunteering almost 50-years-ago. He said at that time Town of Maine had about 30 total volunteers, who were required to train about 18 hours. Now it’s about 15 total volunteers, and required training hours have multiplied significantly.

“I don’t think lowering the requirements is the answer,” said Silverstein. “I think coming up with some type of funding or some type of government assistance to try and get a core of paid drivers, a core that would be supplemented by volunteers.”

Town of Maine Fire Captain Nick Flynn agreed and said those hours are needed, but incentives could help retain more volunteers.

“It’s a large commitment people have to want to put the effort in,” explained Flynn who is a father of three and employee of the Department of Transportation.

Flynn also agreed with Silverstein adding that more activities for children, is requiring more time of parents.

“We’re running from one field to the next,” said Flynn. He later added that often times if he’s along with his children he has to ask another parent or friend to watch his children or drive them home from a sporting event.

“It means we have to pick up more and more slack,” said Flynn.

Silverstein said more fire companies in Broome County have become partners to back each other up at fires due to fewer volunteers. He said Automatic Aid saves the time of calling other stations, because time is valuable.

According to the Firemen’s Association of the State of New York, which is hosting the seventh annual RecruitNY for volunteer firefighters across Broome County this weekend, said taxpayers are saving about a 27% property increase by having volunteers in their area instead of a paid service.

RELATED: Local fire departments will participate in ‘Recruit NY’ this month

“It would be more dangerous to live in a community where you lose your volunteer core,” said Silverstein. “Then you would have to hire full-time paid first responders and in most small communities that would be prohibited.”

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