By Barry Leemann, Chairman, Oswego County Legislature
As we begin this new year, I would like to take a moment to recognize the firefighters across the county and the chiefs and officers who lead them. In addition to the municipal paid and industry companies, Oswego County has approximately 30 volunteer fire departments that are manned by more than 1,000 volunteer firefighters.
Every year, each of these departments elects their own chief who is sworn in at an induction ceremony. County Fire Coordinator John Hinds and his deputy coordinators work closely with the fire services and attend the induction ceremonies for every volunteer department.
The brave men and women serving our local volunteer fire departments play a vital role in protecting the safety and property of our residents. As first responders in life-threatening situations, their preparedness and training is of utmost importance.
Training to become a volunteer firefighter begins in the local fire department. Members must be in good standing within their own company and familiar with their personal protective equipment and other tools of the trade. Candidates should also be aware of their departmentÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s standard operating procedures and be able to demonstrate their abilities in several skills.
To become a volunteer firefighter, candidates must successfully complete an 84-hour course that covers hose operations, fire scene safety, and how to enter a burning building. However, the training doesnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t end there Ã¢â‚¬â€œ volunteers move on to specialized courses designed to prepare them for a variety of emergencies. These training courses include topics such as how to operate emergency vehicles and water pumps, how to remove an injured person from a wrecked car, officer training and leadership, fire scene command, how to rescue people from heights and confined spaces, and how to handle emergencies dealing with hazardous materials.
The Oswego County Fire CoordinatorÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Office organizes training programs at the newly re-opened fire training school in Oswego.
When I took office as County Legislature Chairman, one of my first priorities was to facilitate the move into the new school. In 2008, the county acquired the 19-acre facility from National Grid. With a $100,000 grant through former State Senator James Wright, repairs were made to the buildings and equipment and in the fall of 2008 the Oswego County Emergency Response Training Center opened for business.
This state-of-the-art facility contains 20 specialized props to help firefighters train for all aspects of the job. Participants receive classroom instruction and live fire training from state-certified fire instructors. They practice ladder operations, confined space rescues and use of water streams and fire extinguishers. In addition to structural fires, simulations are conducted for flammable liquids and gasses, motor vehicles, and electrical transformer and power line fires.
While the exterior props are currently closed due to the cold weather, the school has kept a busy winter schedule with classroom courses. Several fire departments are already signed up for spring training and everyone is looking forward to April, when the school will once again become an indoor and outdoor facility.
There is a shortage of volunteer firefighters in Oswego County and across New York State. More dedicated men and women are needed in the volunteer firefighter ranks if the departments are to continue their proud tradition of protecting the publicÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s safety in rural areas. If you are interested in becoming a volunteer firefighter, please contact your local fire chief or call the Oswego County Fire CoordinatorÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Office on weekdays at 349-8800. For a schedule of training courses visit the Fire CoordinatorÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Web site at www.oswegocounty.com/fire
In rural counties like Oswego, these dedicated volunteer firefighters give many hours of their personal time to serving and protecting residents. Please take a moment and say a prayer of gratitude for all that they do for our communities.