Mayville Fire Department sounds the alarm to recruit volunteers

MAYVILLE N.Y. (WIVB) – The Mayville Fire Department in Chautauqua County is sounding the alarm. It’s running low on volunteers.

“There used to be a point in time where we’d get an EMS call and we’d have to decide who gets to go. Now it’s like, ‘OK, do we have enough to go?'” said Noel Guttman, who’s been a firefighter for more than 30 years.

He says finding volunteers who want learn and stay with the department is getting more and more challenging.

“Life just gets in the way, and there’s only so many hours in the day,” he said. “The training commitment is there but we try to find a way to work with that and make it easy, but people have school commitments, family commitments and other job commitments.”

When the department doesn’t have enough volunteers to take the calls, the community ultimately suffers.

“What ends up happening is it leads to longer response times. You’re calling other departments from neighboring communities, which obviously it takes time to travel down the road and get to where they need to go,” said Brandon Tarnowski, who’s been with the department for 10 years.

A shortage in volunteers is not just unique to this fire department, firefighters say departments all across Chautauqua County are noticing the same thing.

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“All fire departments in the county and probably in the state, are in need of members,” Guttman said. “Years ago there used to be waiting lists for people to get in, that doesn’t happen anymore.”

The Mayville Fire Department redid its training program to reach more people who want to focus on a specific skill set, verses trying to learning skills they might not be interested in. The department is hoping that helps draw in more volunteers.

“When I joined 30 years ago, every single person who joined had to go through the basic firefighter training,” Guttman said. “We’ve streamlined it. Right now if you only have an interest in being an EMT, you take the EMT classes, if you only want to join to be a fire police, you take the fire police classes.”

To help recruit more volunteers, the fire department will be holding an open house each Tuesday evening at the fire hall.

Sarah Minkewicz is a reporter who has been part of the News 4 team since 2019. See more of her work here.

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