"A lot of residents may not know we are 100 percent volunteer supported," said Seth Hirschel, a firefighter with the the
To help increase awareness of that fact and recruit new blood to the department, the firehouse will host a community open house to highlight volunteer opportunities and showcase the benefits of being an Emergency Medical Technician or firefighter with the department.
The department is hosting the event during a statewide recruitment initiative sponsored by the Firemen’s Association of the State of New York, which also coincides with National Volunteer Week, from April 15 to 21.
"We offer two paths—firefighting or EMT—and we pay for all necessary training," said Hirschel. For EMT's that amounts to 140 hours and the firefighter course is 96 hours. But a new member doesn't have to wait for training to be completed to go on calls.
"If you live or work in the fire district and your are able-bodied, you become a probationary member for six months and can participate in events," he said.
Hirschel said the department has a diverse membership in terms of age, ethnic background and work experience. For his part, he said he appreciates being involved in a needed community service.
Eileen Sacharewitz, a Bedford Fire Department member who recently participated in an said her only regret is not joining sooner.
"I love it," said Sacharewitz, who also serves as an EMT. "When I'm on a scene, I want to people to know that they can depend on me. Training helps with that—especially an all-female training where I didn't stand out."
In addition to the sense of belonging she gets and satisfaction of performing a community service, Sacharewitz said serving as a firefighter had its heart-pumping moments.
"During a recent training, we were taught how to disassemble a vehicle in the event a victim was trapped. It was the first time I went up an aerial ladder. We had to take one of the tools with us and enter through the fifth story window. The higher up you go, the more narrow the ladder gets and starts to sway. It was a huge confidence builder," she said.
The entire community is invited this Sunday from 11 a.m. - 3 p.m. for tours of the fire house, apparatus tours and activities like blood pressure and CPR demonstrations.
For information on volunteering with the Bedford Hills Fire Department,
For information on volunteering with the Katonah Fire Department,