Hannibal (WSYR-TV) -- Volunteer fire departments across Central New York are struggling to recruit and retain members.
In Hannibal, they’re thinking creatively and offering a new program to get teens involved.
Jeff Gombas joined the Hannibal Fire Department, when he was just 18 years old, and now that the department needs new, young volunteers, he’s hoping teenagers will follow in his footsteps.
“It would be nice to have that extra man power,” Gombas said. “It's something that I've always enjoyed, and when the pager goes off, I'm always ready to jump and go.”
Gombas has climbed the ranks over the years. Now, as the First Assistant Chief, he has seen the department change. There have been only a handful of new volunteers in the last few years and of the 42 members only about half are considered active.
The demand at the Hannibal Fire Department continues to increase every year. This year they will respond to about 600 calls. The ones that come in during the day are a big challenge because many volunteers are working their day jobs.
“When an alarm goes off, we may have a dozen at work and only three or four show up and it makes it hard to do what we got to do with that little people," said Gombas.
The department is focusing its efforts on getting teens involved. It’s launched a Junior Firefighter Program for 16 and 17-year-olds, providing all the training, gear and experience for free, in hopes that they’ll be an active volunteer once they turn 18.
If you’re interested in joining Hannibal’s Junior Firefighter Program, pick up an application at the fire house or call 315-564-5601. Applicant’s must be 16 years old to participate.