The Shelton Volunteer Fire Department is in search of volunteers.
The Volunteer Firefighters of Echo Hose Fire Co. were one of 60 volunteer fire departments around the state to open their doors to visitors this past weekend for an annual open house and celebration of Volunteer Firefighter Day.
Volunteer Firefighter Day is part of Everyday Hero CT, a program dedicated to increasing the number of volunteer firefighters throughout the state.
More than 80% of all fire personnel in Connecticut are volunteers, and a majority of fire departments throughout the state are experiencing a volunteer shortage, according to Echo Hose Lt. Mike Plavcan.
Contrary to popular belief, Plavcan said, volunteers aren’t required to have any background in firefighting and don’t necessarily have to volunteer to be firefighters.
“With the shortage of volunteers, the volunteers who are out on the front line are expected to take on more responsibility aside from fighting fires,” said Plavcan. “We’re looking for anyone willing to volunteer their time to lend a hand. Every person’s effort is appreciated.”
The Shelton Volunteer Fire Department said it is looking for volunteers who can help cook, clean, and be in charge of public relations and social media.
“The firehouse is a home, just like yours,” said Justin Mayer, a general member at Echo Hose Fire Department.
Life of a volunteer firefighter
Being a firefighter is a dangerous and noble career, and not everyone is cut out for it. So a day dedicated to the volunteers who do this job holds a special place in the Shelton volunteer firefighters’ hearts.
“It’s a good way to acknowledge the men and women who dedicate their free time to the city of Shelton,” said Mayer. “These men and women are not only doing this for no pay but also put their lives on the line and give up time with their families. They lose sleep and work holidays, so it’s nice to show we’re appreciated by the community we’re so dedicated to serving.”
Plavcan said that aside from dressing up as a firefighter and growing up down the street from a firehouse as a child, 9/11 was a deciding factor in his volunteering for the past 12 years.
“I knew I’d become a fireman one day,” said Plavcan. “9/11 just made me have an even higher level of respect for firefighters than I already had. I love having the opportunity to help people on the worst days of their lives and protect the community I’m from.”
Plavcan said he still gets excited each time he responds to a call.
“As long as I keep feeling that way, I’m going to keep coming down here and responding to calls to help protect the community,” said Plavcan.
It’s not always a glorious job.
“You remember some of those calls and you wish you could help more, but sometimes you just can’t,” said Plavcan. “The toughest part of this job is having to live with and see people experience tragic losses and know that you’ve done everything to help them.”
In such a critical time for budgets in the state, it’s important for people to get involved in volunteer fire departments because many towns that have volunteer fire companies cannot afford to have career departments, according to Plavcan.
“Volunteers can sometimes be the difference between someone getting out of a fire or not,” he said.
During this year’s open house, the members of Echo Hose Fire Co. showed interested passersby the different fire apparatus they use to help save people and extinguish fire.
The fire company possesses the city’s only ladder truck, and it has recently been parked back inside its bay after some tests had to be completed to evaluate the firehouse’s floor.
The recruitment officer for the Shelton Volunteer Fire Department, Ryan Mattioli, said if the department gets one new member after the open house, it was a success.
Mattioli said anyone interested in joining one of the city’s fire companies needs to be 16 years old, and anyone who wants to fight fires will have to complete training done through the city.
Mayer said the job can be tough, but the preparation members receive makes all the difference.
“There’s no way to tell if you’ll be able to handle something you’ll see on the job until you’re faced with it, but the training sure helps,” said Mayer.
For more information on how to join the city’s fire department, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 203-924-1555, ext. 1515.