Rennerdale VFD attempts to replace six firefighters
Alex Landerfield joined the Rennerdale Volunteer Fire Department a year ago in part to fulfill community service as he prepared to enter high school.
The department could use some more people — young and old — with that kind of service mentality. Since the beginning of the year, the department lost six experienced firefighters to the oil and natural gas industry, Chief Dave Brown said.
“(These jobs) are very demanding,” Brown said. “They're gone for 30 days at a time, and they might have two or three days off in between 30 days away from home, so they're going to spend that time with their family. My big thing that I preach to our guys is family's first.
“But it's been a big task to fulfill finding six guys. We lost them overnight.”
In an effort to find replacements, the department will post yard signs throughout Collier asking residents to “join our team.”
Brown said the department included a box about joining the department with its annual fund drive. He also engaged in “good old-fashioned door-knocking” to talk to residents about joining the department, whether that be fighting fires or helping out in other ways around the station.
Two senior and two “junior” firefighters — people the ages of 14 and 17 who can't enter burning buildings but can fulfill the other obligations of firefighters — recently joined the department. Brown said the two senior firefighters are both “seasoned,” but the department is seeking more like them.
The department now totals 18 active firefighters, including six juniors. About 10 people help the department in other ways, not including fighting fires.
Department officials say they'd like to see the number of firefighters and total helpers double.
“There's a job here for everybody,” said Andy Giroski, president of the department's executive board. “Whether it be somebody willing to come down and sweep the floor once a week — you don't know how big a help that is to the guys that are actual active firemen that they don't have to do that.”
“Have you seen that duck pond outside?” Brown added with a laugh, indicating the pond that fronts the department's station on Suburban Avenue. “You wouldn't believe how many people care about those ducks, so we've got to make sure the ducks are taken care of.”
In an effort to find more firefighters, Rennerdale officials are looking to purchase property in order to build a substation in the Cubbage Hill neighborhood. The building would house a dual purpose fire/EMS truck at first and eventually could house more engines.
“The bulk of our calls are out near the Cubbage Hill/(Interstate) 79 area, which is roughly 600 calls a year in that general area,” Brown said. “Also, we have (about five) members that live out there, but by the time they get here, these trucks are gone. We have the capabilities to get it started, and we think it'll grow once the station's actually built.”
Officials need to buy property for the substation, and money could be an issue in such a purchase. The department receives $55,000 a year from the township, Brown said.
They'd also like to improve retention by sprucing up the main station and making it a more inviting place to spend time. Ideally, Brown would also like to pay firefighters in small amounts, like filling their gas tanks after they respond to calls.
“It takes a special person to do what we do, and that doesn't mean firefight,” Giroski said. “That means to be a volunteer.”
Brown said applications to join the department are available on its website, www.rennerdalevfd.com.
For his part, Alex — the son of assistant fire chief Steve Oberle — said he was trying to convince more people he knew to join as junior firefighters.
“I've asked all my friends to come and do it because it's fun,” said Alex, 15. “It's something you don't get to do much when you're this young.”
Doug Gulasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-8527 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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