Volunteers Save Millions in New York Firefighting Costs

When fire alarms sound in the Lower Hudson Valley (NY), thousands of firefighters -- both volunteer and career -- stand ready to respond, reports The Journal News.

The majority of communities in Rockland, Westchester and Putnam counties are served by volunteers, in line with state and national trends that show about two-thirds of all firefighters are volunteers.

These everyday citizens are willing to interrupt their days, and their nights, to help people in need.

Whether volunteer or career, all firefighters must complete training before they can fight fires. Rockland, Westchester and Putnam each maintain a fire training center where fighters can take classes, sometimes very extensive ones, and drill in "burn" and "smoke" buildings.

To keep local firefighting ranks strong, outreach efforts are continuous to involve new members, with special attention to younger people who are typically more able to go inside burning buildings to fight fires.

Still, Frank Hutton, a Nanuet firefighter, said volunteer departments have been losing firefighters. A decade ago, he said, there were an estimated 92,000 volunteers across New York. Today, that figure has dwindled to about 88,000.

Hutton said a 2001 study by FASNY found a paid fire department would cost $100 million annually if all 26 of Rockland's volunteer departments were replaced by 24-hour career firefighters. He said the costs -- including salaries, benefits, and paying off equipment and firehouses -- would add $10,000 to the average yearly tax bill.

Read more of the story here http://lohud.us/ZoyBei

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