RecruitNY weekend seeks volunteer firefighters

New York state has about 45,000 volunteer fire companies, and back in the early 2000s, the Firemen’s Association of the State of New York spotted an alarming trend: The number of volunteer firefighters was dropping off, big-time.

The rolls of volunteers had plummeted from 120,000 statewide in the 1990s to about 80,000. The association created RecruitNY, a coordinated effort to boost fire companies’ numbers. They added about 25,000 members between 2011 and 2015.

“We stopped the hemorrhaging,” said association Secretary John D’Alessandro. “Now our mission is not to fall backwards.”

This weekend will mark the seventh RecruitNY weekend, and companies in Orange, Sullivan and Ulster counties will be opening their doors, showing off their equipment and hosting a number of activities.

On Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., the New Paltz Fire Department will be putting on live demonstrations, plus fire prevention and public-safety sessions. There’ll also be live music and food and drinks.

The Smallwood–Mongaup Valley Fire Company’s event will be from noon to 3 p.m. Saturday. Plans include firetruck tours, equipment demonstrations and a mock-up of how firefighters work their way through buildings engulfed in flames.

The Cronomer Valley Company’s event will be from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday, and will feature a burning-car demonstration, fire-extinguisher training and a cookout.

“Come check us out and see what we have to offer,” said Cronomer Capt. Paul Harrington. Last year, Harrington said, the company signed up six members on RecruitNY weekend. He hopes to match that this year.

“It’s challenging with the younger generation,” said Ozzie Gonzalez, chief of the Smallwood-Mongaup Valley Fire Company. “People have so many commitments. We do this to show this is something worthwhile that builds leadership qualities.”

Twenty-five companies in the mid-Hudson have plans included on the association listing, but many more will be sponsoring events not listed there.