NANTICOKE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) All across Northeastern and Central Pennsylvania there is a dire need for volunteer firefighters. What happens when there is an emergency and no one answers the call?
Professional firefighters tell Eyewitness News that times are tough and the future is dismal for volunteers.
“In 1970, Pennsylvania had 300,000 plus volunteers. With the number dwindling down to like 38,000 now. The drop is insane when you think about just 50 years.” Chief Kevin Hazleton of the Nanticoke Fire Department said.
Here at the Nanticoke Fire Department, some people are paid while others are volunteers. Without their volunteers, the fire department wouldn’t be able to make those life saving rescues.
“We have a good volunteer base in Nanticoke, we do. And we’re lucky enough to be a combination department. But having people on the scene in the first 3-4 minutes is the difference between life and death no doubt about it.” Chief Hazleton added.
Being a volunteer can be very rewarding. Volunteering could even lead many to a career in fighting fires.
“The reward is just helping your brother, helping your neighbor with volunteerism. That’s how it started. And that’s what it’s still about. Just getting that little, hey, thank you.”
“It could turn into something you like and eventually you can try to make a career out of it. I know not only here in the valley but a lot of friends did end up moving outside the area working in D.C., Baltimore County and that area too.” Dane Aukstakalnis from the Nanticoke Fire Department said.
Chief Hazleton says if you’re willing to volunteer there is a place for you at any local fire department from 14 year old junior firemen to seniors.
“All of a sudden you retired early and you have something to do, come around! Every department has something you could help with. There’s no doubt about that.”
If you or anyone you know is interested in volunteering, stop by your local fire department and they can help you get started.