Volunteer Firefighters

The Backbone of Our Communities
March 7, 2005

Imagine you’re awakened in the middle of the night from a sound sleep by a harsh beeping noise; you wake up to discover your smoke detector is sounding. You hurry to get your family to safety and the next call you make is to your local fire department, whose members rush to your house in the middle of the night, no matter the weather conditions, to help save your possessions. I hope this never happens to you, but if it does you should know that those men and women who are rushing to your home are doing so out of kindness.

Since September 11, 2001, many of us now realize the true heroism of New York’s FireFighters. Whether professional or volunteer firefighters risk their lives on a daily basis to save people they do not know and homes they have never been in. These men and women deserve our utmost respect as outstanding members of our communities and truly decent human beings.

I have begun a journey throughout my district, holding town hall meetings in each of my 31 towns. As I have the opportunity to speak with community leaders and local residents, one recurring theme that has come up is the lack of volunteer firefighters and the threat that poses on our communities. I urge any interested person to volunteer as a firefighter – your community is depending on you.

As the son of a former firefighter, I have the greatest respect and admiration for such brave involvement and personal sacrifice, and am fully aware of the time required to prepare and practice so that the members of each local fire department are best able to safeguard the needs of the public and their community.

Perhaps one of the greatest benefits of joining your local fire department is the knowledge that you are acting as a protector for your family, your friends, your neighbors and your community. There are many great feelings in this world, and giving of yourself, selflessly is one of the best. Firefighters like many other clubs and organizations develop a real bond, friendships and sense of belonging.

New York state, and local communities offer a series of incentives to encourage volunteers. Programs such as injury compensation, training programs, retirement incentives, workers compensation and tax breaks. The Firemen’s Association of the State of New York (FASNY) provides volunteers with the opportunity to join a federally insured, member-owned credit union – FASNY Federal Credit Union.

In addition to current incentives and benefits the legislature is always looking for ways to encourage and reward volunteer firefighters. During the 2004 legislative session, a bill was introduced that would change the parks, recreation and historic preservation law. The law currently allows for the free use of campsites by any person who is blind, non-ambulatory, an amputee, or any veteran of the wars of the United States. If passed it would allow for the free use of campsites, parks and other public places of recreation by all of the above groups as well as volunteer firefighters. A small way to say thanks to those who deserve it. I will continue to advocate on behalf of this bill, and any that reward and recognize our firefighters in 2005.

For more information on becoming a volunteer firefighter, please contact your local fire chief, or visit the New York state Office of Fire Prevention and Control Web site www.dos.state.ny.us/fire.

My staff and I are always available by phone and e-mail, and at my district or Albany offices. In Albany, I can be reached at (518) 455-5772, or in Room 720 of the Legislative Office Building. I can be reached locally at (315) 781-2030, or at my office at 607 West Washington St., Suite 2, Geneva. My e-mail address is kolbb@assembly.state.ny.us.