ON THE BOOK SHELF
By John M. Malecky December, 2016
Sounding the alarm to save our vanishing volunteers
By George Devault
Amazon, Barnes & Noble and
also in most book stores
This book is soft cover, measuring six-by-nine inches and has 297 pages of 36 chapters within seven parts, plus an introduction and epilogue. The author was a volunteer firefighter for 30 years in Pennsylvania. Part of that time, he was a part-time paid firefighter in the general vicinity. His plea is a valid one attested to in the seven page introduction. It is an eye opener to the critical shortage of volunteer firefighters there are, not only in Pennsylvania, but throughout the country.
The amount of information and statistics is overwhelming and sounds a signal that many, if not most, volunteer fire departments are hurting for members. That said, it also gives the average age of today’s volunteer. Let’s just say that if they were professional athletes, they would be well retired! He gives many reasons for the shortage, most of which are legitimate, especially when it comes to the economy dictating the need for two or more incomes within families, compounded by the level of stress placed upon men and women today.
Contributing to that are the multiple ways that people today can be contacted, including many kinds of phones, answering machines, e-mail and pagers to name a few. He makes his living at a reputable publisher, where he has progressed intoto a management position. He is also an organic farmer. His office is across the street from the fire station, so when at work, it was easy access to respond to a call.
He uses part of the book to explain how his journalism job sparked an interest in becoming a volunteer firefighter, particularly when he worked the police desk so to speak at a newspaper in the large city of Ohio. It was after he took a job at the publishing company that he relocated and became a firefighter.
He takes the reader through the many variables of being a volunteer. Not taking anything away from the career firefighter (I was one), the volunteer is subject to be called to duty at any time. While career firefighters work in teams and advance in skills together, the volunteer almost never knows who will show up to answer a call, thus it is a guess who will make up this team. The number of personnel showing up is also questionable at a call. I can say that most career FD’s don’t do much better with the numbers game, as firefighters are expensive today, but even years ago when they weren’t, few departments had adequate manning.
He goes through all aspects of training for volunteers, which included inside firefighting. Other parts of the book group all kinds of fires and emergencies fought and handled in a non-perfect world. When reading some of these, you may forget that these are volunteers, as many of the details resemble those you may have read from other authors in career fire departments.
It is a book you will not want to put down unless something really urgent commands your attention! Also, a quick note that on the last page are ways that a person can ease the burden of a volunteer fire department without necessarily joining the ranks. There are many supportive functions needed, such as grant writers, fundraisers, office workers, cooks (for fundraising), attorney for legal matters, tradesmen such as mechanics, electricians, grounds keeping, chaplain, nurse and many others.