$686,000 grant launched to recruit volunteer firefighters

Officials announced the launching of a four-year county-wide strategic recruitment campaign during yesterday’s press conference at Abington Township Fire Department’s Public Training Facility. 

The campaign addresses volunteer shortages seen across Montgomery County, which mirror those throughout the state. Charles McGarvey, acting State Fire Commissioner, pointed out the dire need to address the shortages, as Pennsylvania has been the national leader in deaths from fires for the last two years.

“Our services are in crisis. Our fires are burning hotter and faster than ever before. Sadly, our state has led the nation with 144 civilian fatalities. Due to this crisis, we’re trying to do more with less. For the first time ever, we’re seeing a drop in applicants and volunteers. This campaign is important to bringing in more volunteers and retaining the veteran firefighters we have,” McGarvey said.

With more than 80 fire companies involved, the Montgomery County Fire Chief’s Association tagline, “Ordinary People. Trained for the Extraordinary,” couples with a new recruitment website and a recently secured $686,000 four-year grant, all intended to recruit new volunteer firefighters in the area.

Funded entirely through the Staffing for Adequate Fire & Emergency Response (SAFER) grant by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the campaign comes with no cost to taxpayers.

“The purpose of this grant is to help us increase and retain the number of trained firefighters in our communities,” Glen Russell, Limerick Fire Department Deputy Chief, said. “We are so grateful to be a recipient.”

Also present during the press conference were Mike Jones, Chief of Abington Fire Company, George Wilmot, Assistant Chief of Flourtown Fire Company, and volunteer firefighters on behalf of various local fire companies.

Recruitment efforts will include targeted residential mailings and brochures, hands-on recruiting efforts at community events, and digital advertising. Social media management and public relations will also be used to reach potential volunteers in the community.

“We hope with this campaign that the community will see we are ordinary people looking to give back to their community,” George Wilmot, who is also the president of the Montgomery County Fire Chief’s Association, said. “We come from all different walks of life.”

Officials noted that prior experience is unnecessary for potential volunteers, and that each fire company provides state-of-the-art training and gear, free of cost.

Other personnel are in demand as well, Wilmot said.

“Not only are we looking for firefighters, but we need administrative volunteers, EMTS, fire police, and junior firefighters,” said Wilmot.

To reach more members in the community and create awareness about the need for volunteers, the Montgomery County Fire Chiefs Association retained the services of The Communication Solutions Group, a Montgomery County public relations and marketing firm that has run multiple county-wide campaigns throughout Pennsylvania.

For more information or to become a volunteer, you can visit the campaign’s website.

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