Probie Power

By Tom Rinelli, West Sayville Fire Department

In a time of declining membership among volunteer fire departments across the nation, the West Sayville Fire Department has had marked success with the recruitment and retention of new volunteer firefighters.

Led by Chief Gary Savino, the West Sayville Fire Department serves a seven-square-mile residential/commercial response area encompassing the communities of West Sayville and Oakdale on Long Island’s South Shore. Operating from two stations, 110 volunteers (including 60 Class A interior firefighters) provide fire and rescue protection and respond to an annual average of 450-500 alarms.

During an assessment of the department’s membership and associated response capabilities, it was determined that a younger demographic was lacking in part due to the high cost of living on Long Island. A comprehensive plan was implemented by the membership committee to encourage recruitment of new members while focusing on the retention of current members.

This plan paid significant dividends. In 2019 alone, the department has had marked success with the recruitment of new members both from within the ranks of the junior fire department as well as from the community. Presently, the department has 13 probationary firefighters (“probies”), including eight who transitioned from the juniors at age 17 (a perk offered to those juniors meeting certain criteria) as well as several other new members who were acquired through FASNY’s RecruitNY open house initiative.

In addition, there are presently several more juniors and other prospective candidates going through the membership application process to join the ranks of the department. A key element of this success has been the retention of dedicated members who have been part of the West Sayville Junior Fire Department.

In 2019 alone, the department has had marked success with the recruitment of new members both from within the ranks of the junior fire department as well as from the community.

Organized in 1895, and due to celebrate its 125th anniversary in 2020, the Juniors program presently counts 40-45 members among its ranks. They range in age from 8 through 17. The Juniors participate in firematic training, service projects in support of the department and community, leadership training for high school-age members and the Junior Flying Dutchmen old fashioned firematic drill team. Many of our juniors have progressed into the ranks of the senior department and account for many leaders both past and present including the majority of the current chief officers.

Having served the community for 128 years since its organization in 1891, the West Sayville Fire Department will continue to be there in times of need through the efforts of our members garnered through multi-generational family legacies, our juniors program and by harnessing our “Probie Power.”

Tom Rinelli is a 33-year veteran of the volunteer fire and EMS brotherhood on Long Island. As a newer member of the West Sayville FD serving on both the Public Relations and Juniors Committees, he is involved with recruitment/retention efforts as well as training of both junior and probationary members. For information on West Sayville FD’s recruitment efforts, he can be reached at firescueguy@gmail.com