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Lancaster County puts out call for volunteer firefighters

LANCASTER, Pa. - You may be hearing a louder call from Lancaster County fire departments looking for volunteer firefighters.

The Lancaster County Fire Chiefs Association won a grant of around $375,000 from FEMA to launch a marketing campaign with the goal of attracting more than 200 new volunteer firefighters over the next three years.

"Volunteer fire services are really struggling for membership for lots of reasons, but our numbers are down, and when the numbers of members are down, that increases response time and also has the potential for a life safety issue," Duane Hagelgans, commissioner of the Blue Rock Fire Rescue based in Millersville, said.

Most volunteer firefighters are eager to share the benefits of volunteering, even if the element of danger and the substantial time commitment can be deterrents.

"It's just the enjoyment you get, the self-worth that increases by being able to help out your neighbors," Bill Hall, a retired chief of the Fire Department Mount Joy and a state fire instructor, said.

Fire officials planned on launching the campaign next month, but early word-of-mouth has already drawn interest from several potential volunteers that Hall was on the phone with Tuesday night.

All types of volunteer opportunities are available.

"Maybe it's not someone who wants to actually go into the burning building," Hall said. "There are surely opportunities to do administrative work, whether it's keeping the books or running the meetings, helping with fundraisers, and there's even opportunities at the stations with maintenance and cleaning and any of those types of things."

The need is there. Only Lancaster City and Manheim Township pay firefighters, meaning that the county's other 67 fire departments are strictly volunteer, Hagelgans said.

"In Lancaster County, we are mostly a volunteer fire service, and most people don't realize that they're dependent on volunteers," he said.

Click here for more information on how you can volunteer, or call 888-914-JOIN.