Written by Karen Gellender Friday, 15 April 2011 00:00
For four years, Jericho residents have wondered what the inside of the impressive new firehouse building on North Broadway was like. Fortunately, many had the opportunity to find out on Sunday, April 10, when the Jericho Fire Department held their 2011 Open House, in recognition of National Volunteer Week and the Fireman’s Association of the State of NY (FASNY) Recruit NY event. While fire departments all over New York State participated in Recruit NY, in Jericho, the event was as much about familiarizing the community with their fire department- as well as their new facilities- as recruitment.
For department chief David M. Ginzburg, Recruit NY came along at the right time. “We were really looking to do something all along,” he said. “A good recruiting-type event, and it just so happened that this came up.” While some fire departments advertised their event specifically as a recruitment drive, Ginzburg noted that Jericho department specifically planned their event as more of an open house in order to make the community feel welcome at the firehouse.
The strategy appears to have worked: between the hours of 11 a.m. and 4 p.m., Ginzburg and Jericho Fire District Commissioner Ted Ketsoglou estimated that over 500 residents had stopped by the firehouse for hotdogs, ice cream, informational tours, and to see some of the equipment up close. In addition, several people expressed a strong interest in joining the department; naturally, in the future, some of those that enjoyed the fire department’s hospitality at this event- perhaps the children who gleefully jumped around on the firetrucks- may consider volunteering their time as well.
The JFD has participated in Recruit NY in years past, but never on this scale; previously, JFD Company Three had organized their own event. This year, not only was the entire department involved, but the event was triple the size. The Jericho school district pitched in, sending emails out to residents and promoting the event on the district website.
Ginzburg and Ketsoglou explained that while they do not consider their department understaffed, getting new volunteer firefighters in Jericho can be a challenge; since so many of the young people who might traditionally be interested in joining the fire department go off to four-year colleges, and homeowners can be very busy with their children’s after school sports and other events, there just aren’t a tremendous amount of people who can contribute their time.
Furthermore, while recruitment has gone up in general in the years since 9/11 (which had the effect of making people more aware of the importance of firefighters and EMTs in general, explained Ginzburg), it has leveled off in the past few years- quite possibly due to the state of the economy. In fact, Ginzburg says the department has lost volunteers due to some residents having to take on second jobs. “People don’t have the spare time that they used to have,” said Ginzburg.
Throughout the day, the fire department conducted tours of the station and firefighter apparatus, allowed visitors to try on firefighting gear, and provided activities and stations throughout the firehouse for visitors to participate in. The fire department discussed the requirements to be a volunteer, as well as conducted demonstrations, answered questions, and let visitors know how to get involved.
Among the guests enjoying the festivities was Muttontown Mayor Julianne Beckerman. “I’m really here to support our wonderful, wonderful volunteers of the Jericho Fire Department,” said Beckerman.
One of the things many visitors were surprised to learn, noted Ketsoglou, was that all of the firefighters are unpaid volunteers. In addition, many didn’t know that the fire department has openings for the entire family to pitch in; there’s a junior firefighters program that children 13 and over are welcome to join, as well as a Ladies Auxiliary Department that welcomes department mothers, daughters, and spouses.
“One of the things that I think we want to share with the community is the fact that it’s not just a men’s club,” said Ketsoglou. “Possibly years and years ago it was like that, but it’s really a family-oriented organization that gets together and does things as a family.”
To find out more about volunteering, call the Jericho Fire Department at 931-3546. Daytime availability is a plus, but the department has an opening for anyone who would be interested in volunteering their time as either a firefighter or an EMS technician; training will be provided.