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Carthage-area fire departments seek new members

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As did many departments statewide, Carthage-area fire departments opened their doors for RecruitNY on Saturday. Although none of the departments had many visitors, the event was an opportunity for firefighters to put in some extra training.

At the Deferiet Fire Department, firefighters practiced hose skills, and in Black River volunteers put on a demonstration with the hydraulic extraction tool commonly referred to as the Jaws of Life.

Black River Fire Chief Matthew P. Carpenter said although many of the department’s firefighters had spent the night on the scene of a fire in Calcium, he had a good showing of members and visitors from the community.

“We have a dedicated group,” the chief said, with about 24 active members. However, membership is “at its lowest point in 80 years.”

Ideally he feels the department should have about 40 members, the membership the department had back in 2000, when he first joined.

Last year the department logged a total of 138 calls with a combined 979 man hours of service. He said it is always hard to add members and then to train them. To become an interior firefighter requires 96 hours of training.

Because of its proximity to Fort Drum, the department has had many soldiers join, but they don’t stay long because of deployments and transfers.

Andrew Wonderly attended the open house and has been urged by his father, Mark, an active member of the department, to join.

“He’s talked to me about joining, but I don’t know if I would be able to commit because of my work schedule,” said Andrew Wonderly, a store delivery driver.

Deferiet Fire Chief Timothy J. Irey said about 15 of the department’s 20 members turned out for hose practice at the open house.

Membership in the village department is up six people since December.

“We’re getting there,” he said, noting the department can never have enough members.

He said volunteers do not have to live within the village limits but within a 10-mile radius from the point at the entrance to the village off Route 3.

Few visitors stopped at the Carthage Fire Department, despite the lure of a chicken barbecue by the Nighthawks firematics drill team and a bake sale by the department’s auxiliary.

“It’s an attempt each year to gain members. It’s hit and miss,” Carthage Fire Chief Sean P. McHale said. “We’ll continue to host open houses, though.”

His department has about 40 members, with 17 to 20 responding to calls.


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