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Monroeville Fire company hopes event draws recruits'

| Friday, May 18, 2001

Increased training requirements, as well as the potential for injury and even death, make it challenging for volunteer fire companies trying to recruit new members.

If you go
What: Open house

When: Noon to 4 p.m. Sunday Where: Monroeville No. 4 Volunteer Fire Company, 4370 Northern Pike, Monroeville. Details: (412) 372-4404.
Monroeville No. 4 Volunteer Fire Company along Northern Pike is hoping an open house on Sunday will serve as both a means of recruiting new members and educating the public about all the jobs a volunteer performs.

'Firefighting is more complex and more technical today with hazardous materials and high-rise buildings,' said Kenneth Kuzins, president of Monroeville No. 5 Volunteer Fire Company along Seco Road and a member for 26 years. 'It is different than when I first joined.'

Capt. Dale Mitchell said No. 4 at the height of its membership had 100 to 125 members on the roster. There are 72 on the rolls now, 30 to 35 of whom are active members.

Mitchell said recruiting new members has become a challenge because 'there is a decline in volunteerism.'

The open house is the first in Mitchell's 16 years as a member.

'If this goes well, it will grow from year to year,' Mitchell said.

He said visitors to the fire company will have the opportunity to participate in a host of activities, including tours of the fire station and social hall, a demonstration of the vehicles and other equipment, fire prevention education including a fire safety house and a rescue demonstration.

No. 4 also will debut its new heavy rescue truck, which cost $450,000 and was purchased through a combination of fire department funds and a loan taken out by the company.

Mitchell said No. 4 answers about 2,200 emergency medical service calls a year and about 850 fire calls annually.

The Allegheny County arson detection dog and the Monroeville Police Department K-9 division also will be on hand.

Refreshments will be served.

'We are using it as an educational tool and a recruitment tool,' Mitchell said.

He said the open house also will let people see the different types of jobs available at a fire company.

'When joining the fire company, everyone thinks you have to be an inside person,' Mitchell said. 'But that's not true. There are a ton of jobs like administrative work.'

Most of the volunteer fire companies across the state are struggling to recruit new members.

Kuzins said No. 5 has about 15 active members. One way the company attracts young members is through the college live-in program. About 10 college students live at the fire station.

'College students live rent-free in exchange for answering ambulance and fire calls,' Kuzins said.

No. 5, as well as the other volunteer fire companies in Monroeville, pays for members' basic firefighting and emergency medical training, Kuzins said.

The company feels the pinch during the summer months when the 'college kids go back home.'

Kuzins said No. 5 recruits new members by having open houses and participating in job fairs.

But the challenge continues.

Kuzins said many young people don't want to devote time, 'hundreds of hours,' to training. And many 'don't have the discipline. It is a serious thing.'

'We need young people to get involved and stay involved,' Kuzins said.

Harold Katofsky, chief of Monroeville No. 6 Volunteer Fire Company in Garden City, said the key to attracting young members is to 'get them hooked before they get their drivers' licenses' and before they succumb to peer pressure.

Katofsky said No. 6 has six members ages 14 to 18. The company also has about 65 members, about 50 of whom are active.

'We have a very nice complement of all age brackets,' Katofsky said.

The youth program must have proper supervision to be successful, Katofsky said.

Mitchell said anyone who can't attend the open house but may be interested in joining the fire department should contact him at (412) 372-4404.

Karen Zapf can be reached at kzapf@tribweb.com or (412) 380-8522.

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