Mt. Pleasant Volunteer Fire Department enjoys rush of new volunteers
When the numbers began to decrease on the active firemen's roster for the Mt. Pleasant Volunteer Fire Department, Chief Gerald Lucia didn't have to worry for long. Seven new volunteers stepped up to join the department, bringing the active number to 51.
"We dipped down into the 40s there for a bit then these seven new volunteers came," Lucia said. "It went down then all of a sudden, we started picking up numbers."
Included in the new group are a few new firemen, a few veterans and the department's first female volunteer.
The 112-year-old company is decades past its heyday, when it experienced a full roster and a waiting list.
"Back when I joined in the '70s, the roster was full," Lucia said of the 65-person list. "You had to wait for an opening, then hope that you got voted on and approved."
Lucia said the department enjoyed a full roster for several decades, until changing times and lifestyles started to cut into the number of available volunteers.
"It was that way until the mid 80s," Lucia said. "It's really a time commitment and today's younger folks lead different lifestyles. They work and wives work and it's different."
New volunteers must satisfy almost 190 hours of essential training. Lucia stated that in addition to those hours, each volunteer is expected to answer 30 percent of a year's calls to stay active, which equates to approximately 150 calls.
In 2009, the company answered 526. In 2010 that number went up to 531.
"The calls have increased for two reasons. One, there are a lot more automatic alarms. We answer automatic alarms calls to a lot of facilities in the area, and the second reason is vehicle accidents. There are a lot more vehicles on the road now and a lot more drivers."
The department, which is divided into five companies, is constantly active, and answered four calls in a one-half hour period during a recent snowfall.
Working on a point system, Lucia said each volunteer tries to answer as many calls as they can when they are available.
"For the higher percentages of calls answered which is 50 percent or more, we have about 10 percent of our guys that do that," Lucia said. "For the 40 to 50 percent of calls answered, we have about 35 percent of our guys. The rest fall lower."
Lucia said that new volunteers must past a physical and are drug tested, but the age limit as been lifted.
"We used to have an age limit of 40 but we stopped doing that because we were told that it was age discrimination," Lucia said.
Lucia also thanks the community for its continued support of the local department, which depends on local funding for its operations.
"If it wasn't for the continued support of the community, the volunteer fire department would have to be dissolved," Lucia said.
Although the department now has seven new faces, Lucia said that he will continue to seek new volunteers on a regular basis.
"I'd gladly put my department up against any department any day," Lucia said. "We have a good mix of experienced firefighters and new volunteers who are anxious to learn, and I'm always recruiting for more. I always am and I always will."