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Volunteer emergency responders in short supply

Danielle Ryan

(6/6) The urgent need for volunteers was the hot topic at the Fairfield Fire & EMS quarterly meeting. The Department is asking area municipalities for assistance and suggestions on how to solicit volunteers to support emergency response services.

Hamiltonban Township Solicitor, Matthew Battersby and Bruce Carr, Carroll Valley Borough Council member, brought up the topic of lack of volunteers at their respective council meetings. Battersby stated that the Fire Chief from the Fairfield Department, Bill Jacobs, and his son, Adam Jacobs will be absent for a period of eight months. Battersby noted that these two members respond to one third of emergency calls in Hamiltonban, Highland and Liberty Townships, as well as Carroll Valley and the Borough of Fairfield.

Battersby also stated that southwest Adams County has the highest percentage of people over the age of 55 years as well as the highest percentage of the population traveling 2 hours outside the area for their jobs. The pool of volunteers to draw from in this area of Adams County is therefore limited.

At the Hamiltonban Board of Supervisorís meeting, Fountaindale emergency responder, Sam Ginn, spoke about the need for surrounding municipality Fire Companies to come up with a solution. Ginn noted that the Fountaindale and Fairfield fire companies already draw from the same pool of emergency responders.

"Sometime in the future," said Ginn, "neighboring fire companies may have to consider collaborative efforts, including consolidation, in an effort to form fewer, larger departments thereby better utilizing both human and financial resources." He ended by stating that the need for volunteerism is dire.

Bill Jacobs, Fairfield Fire Department Chief, noted the decline in number of volunteers since he began his time with the department in 1996. "Within the past 20 years, the number of volunteers has dropped by half. Twenty years ago, the Fire Department was averaging 15-18 people per fire hall. The ambulance crew consisted of about 14 volunteers, and now there are only 7. There are also currently only about 8 volunteers per emergency call." Jacobs also mentioned that during every volunteer shift there are people who are dedicated to come in and volunteer. Unfortunately though, this number is dwindling.

If volunteer numbers do not increase both Ginn and Jacobs suspect that departments will have to increase the number of paid staff, which would result in an increase in the local fire tax, which is minimal at the present time.

But the companies are not throwing in the towel yet on recruiting local volunteers. This yearís Fairfield Fire Company and EMS Days drew in hundreds in spite of the rainy weather. The open house featured activities for the kids including fire truck and ambulance rides as well as programs for adults. Adams Regional EMS was on hand to provide information for potential volunteers.

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