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Youngwood VFD plans first open house in 20 years

| Thursday, June 6, 2013, 8:56 p.m.

Youngwood Volunteer Fire Department does more than just fight fires and it could use some support to keep doing what it does.

The department will hold an open house from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. June 15 to educate the community, provide health screenings and offer demonstrations.

The department has not held an open house for the last 20 years.

“We want to look to the future to get more people involved,” said Capt. John Storey Jr., a volunteer firefighter for the last 10 years. “There's a place for everybody. We don't just fight fires, but do fundraisers, maintain equipment ... there's always something for someone to do.”

In Pennsylvania 25 to 30 years ago, Storey estimates there were approximately 275,000 to 300,000 firefighters. Today the number is closer to 75,000 to 80,000. The decrease is felt in fire departments across the nation, Storey said.

The Youngwood Volunteer Fire Department has a roster of 40 active firefighters, including junior firefighters. Their ages range from 15 to 75.

Members answer ambulance calls involving drug overdoses. Those calls use to number about 10 a year, but there has been a dramatic increase in the number of heroin overdoses where the department is called, Storey said.

With that in mind, members of the Westmoreland Courthouse Reality Tour will be featured at the open house, answering questions and providing drug testing kits for parents. The Reality Tour, which began in 2007, is a three-hour parent/child drug prevention program offered at the Westmoreland County Courthouse in Greensburg.

Sharron Prettiman, director/coordinator of the Reality Tour, said the drug testing kits are pertinent for middle-school children to get them in the habit of being drug tested before they begin experimenting.

Westmoreland Community Action will put on a puppet show geared toward younger children on good decision making and Carmen Capozzi's Sage's Army will be on hand to raise awareness of drug addiction.

Other information tables will be manned by the Westmoreland County Coroner's Office, the district attorney's Awareness program, PennDOT's Emergency Contact Information System and the Youngwood Firefighters Ladies Auxiliary.

Hayden's Pharmacy will provide blood and diabetes testing and Youngwood Eye Care will perform free vision screenings and visual acuity tests and provide information about retinal health.

Michel Pawlosky, optometrist and owner of Youngwood Eye Care, is also the president of the Youngwood Business Association. She has worked with the fire department in the past and is thrilled to be a part of the open house.

“The fire department was heavily involved in our 5K” race to benefit a new playground, Pawlosky said. “Anything I can do to help them, I would love to.”

There will be a vehicle extrication and K-9 search-and-rescue team demonstrations. Storey said the goal of the day is to bring awareness to everything the department has to offer.

“People picture a red truck with sirens but it's not all about going into burning buildings,” he said. “We have elderly residents we check on to make sure their smoke detectors work, offer fire prevention, speak with kids. [There] is not one individual that makes our department function. It functions as a group. ... Everybody takes part.”

Storey has no idea what to expect with the open house after its hiatus of at least 20 years.

“I would love to have a great turnout,” he said. “I will consider it a success if we get two applications for people interested in helping us.”

Michele Stewardson is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.