A volunteer firehouse wouldn’t be possible without volunteers and on April 27 and 28, the Broad Channel Volunteer Fire Department (BCVFD) is hoping to pique the interest of some new recruits.
“When you need an ambulance or help during a fire, there’s nothing better than when the person coming to your house is someone you know. It’s a comfort when you have your neighbors helping you. And as the person that’s helping, you know you accomplished something when people are facing some of the worst crises in their lives and you were the one there for them to help them through that. Making sure your fellow neighbors are safe is a reward in itself,” BCVFD’s Chief Dan McIntyre said. He hopes that message and more comes across during the BCVFD’s Open House and Recruitment Drive at the 15 Noel Road firehouse on Saturday, April 27 and Sunday, April 28.
In conjunction with RECRUIT NY, an initiative sponsored by the Firemen's Association of the State of NY, the BCVFD will be participating in a statewide open house and membership drive that weekend. From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. both days, all are welcome to come to the firehouse and see what they’re all about and learn why it’s important to volunteer as a hometown firefighter, EMT or fire alarm dispatcher.
Making for an even more special event, the BCVFD will be introducing much of the community to their recently renovated firehouse. Over the fall and winter, members of the firehouse and others from the community, dedicated time and labor to renovate the more than 100-year-old firehouse at 15 Noel Road, while the BCVFD holds hope for a completely new firehouse to be built in the future. Next weekend, guests will get to see the fruits of their labor, as well as a new sign donated by Rockaway Graphics, while enjoying a series of programming during the open house.
The event kicks off at 10 a.m. on both days and the whole family is welcome. Starting at 10:15 a.m., there will be bounce houses and target practice games for kids to enjoy. At 11 a.m. on Saturday, there will be a hose operation demonstration for future firefighters, followed by a Hurst Tool Drill and Demonstration at noon. At 1 p.m., there will be a hands-on CPR class. At 2 p.m., there will be a visit with the BCVFD’s Junior Explorers, a group of youngsters and possible future volunteers, and the event will continue until 4 p.m. On Sunday, starting at 11 a.m., there will be a discussion on cardio health by Dr. Daniel Riegel and Dr. Norman Riegel, followed by a hose operation at 11:30 a.m. At noon, there will be an EMS Drill and Demonstration, a hands-on CPR class at 1 p.m., and a visit with the firehouse’s firefighters and EMTs at 2 p.m.
Chief McIntyre hopes the event serves as a way to inspire others to get on board and sign up to volunteer and join a tradition that has taken place in Broad Channel since 1905. According to him, membership has taken a big hit in recent years as a result of Hurricane Sandy.
“Basically, we need bodies. In a time of need, you have to have people you can call on. The firehouse has gone through ups and downs with membership, but Sandy really hurt us. It pushed us down to a point where it’s difficult to stay in operation,” he said, explaining that many members had to move out of Broad Channel as a result of the storm, and many didn’t come back. With the nearest FDNY firehouses being in Rockaway Beach and Howard Beach, Chief McIntyre stressed how important it is to keep the local volunteer firehouse membership strong. “We have the luxury of having EMS and FDNY around, but there’s a great need for volunteers in the Rockaways and Broad Channel,” he said.
In addition to the recruitment event, the BCVFD also offers a Junior Explorer’s program, open to kids 12 and up, which helps prepare youth for real-life experiences, careers and possibly becoming volunteers once they turn 18. “We start training them in all aspects of emergency service and simple things like how to answer the telephone and dealing with the public,” Chief McIntyre said. “Years ago, as a kid, you saw the firetrucks and thought how cool that is and you wanted to learn how to join the firehouse. Now kids have computers and video games and they don’t get that same inspiration when they see a fire truck. This program really gives kids a hands-on experience and gives them structure. Many of our juniors have gone on to higher things in life, but many go on to work in civil service and become police and firefighters and even volunteers, and this helps them with that.” The program is always open to new members.
Some other efforts the BCVFD will be doing to boost the firehouse include their annual fund drive. Each year, the firehouse sends out letters to the Broad Channel community and some members go around door-to-door, requesting donations of about $75 to support the volunteer efforts. The firehouse relies on donations from the community for about 80 percent of its operating costs. Like membership, donations have also gone down in recent years due to the hit on the community by Hurricane Sandy. Chief McIntyre hopes to see a boost this year when fundraising efforts begin in May. However, all donations are welcome throughout the year.
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