Student Volunteers Fill Need for NY Department

One of Mike Bischoff’s goals, when he became chief of the Morrisville Fire Department (NY) three years ago, was to address the department’s dwindling volunteer base, reports The Post-Standard.

“Everyone’s lives today are incredibly busy,” Bischoff said. “There are a lot more activities for kids. People are working a lot more, sometimes multiple jobs to get their bills paid.”

The problem isn’t particular to Morrisville. Statewide, the number of volunteer firefighters has dropped from 120,000 in the late 1990s to about 85,000, said Jim Burns, president of the Firemen’s Association of the State of New York.

Fire department across Central New York too often struggle to find enough volunteers.

Bischoff’s solution is to tap into the rural Madison County community’s biggest population center: Morrisville State College. It has 3,100 students.

This year, 12 students from the college joined the 38-member department. Nine of the recruits had never volunteered before and are completing a 100-hour training course along with their classes. Add that to the half dozen students that volunteered in previous years, and students make up more than a third of the department.

“We almost ran out of gear,” Bischoff said with a laugh. “That’s a good problem to have.”

The student volunteers come from all academic backgrounds, including equine science, automotive technology and landscape architecture, Bischoff said.

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