For the better part of the last century, 78 years to be exact, the Indian Mills Volunteer Fire Company has answered the call for help time and again.
Now, Shamong’s long-standing fire company is turning to residents it protects for help as it searches high and low for volunteers.
“We’re at an all-time low,” Fire Chief John Smith said. “People aren’t volunteering anymore.”
The fire company has two sides to its operation, according to Smith: the fire brigade and the EMS. He estimates the two combined have 25 volunteers.
The process to join the company is simple: Interested volunteers must submit an application with three references, pass a physical given by the New Jersey State Firemen’s Association and have their applications voted upon at a meeting. Once the application is accepted, the prospective volunteer begins a one-year probationary period where he or she can choose to go to fire school, partake in EMS training, become fire police or assist in administrative duties.
“We’re open for anybody,” Smith said.
In his 20 years as chief and 47 total with the company, Smith claims only two applications have been turned down.
“For good cause,” he added.
Since the department operates with volunteers, most of its firefighters and EMS staff hold full-time jobs. The company requires attendance on Thursday nights: The first Thursday involves a meeting, the second is focused on training and the third is a brigade session.
“We work with you,” Smith explained. “We understand you can’t be there while you’re working.”
The chief added that training can be made available when a volunteer is not working. He also quelled concerns about life-and-death situations, given that firefighting is not just about running into burning buildings or pulling cats out of trees.
Before putting on a self-contained breathing apparatus, a prospective volunteer needs to pass the Fire Fighter One course offered by Burlington County.
Though firefighting can often be a thankless job, it’s one Smith embraces as satisfying in its own way.
“I enjoy doing what I’m doing and being with people who have the same interests you have,” he noted. “Helping when there’s a 911 call.
“You’re doing it to help,” Smith added. “When someone dials 911, they need help. You have the satisfaction that when you get the call, you’re out there helping them,”
At the end of the day, the Indian Mills Volunteer Fire Company needs help, and residents can offer that by donating their time. For more information, visit the company’s Facebook page or its website, IndianMillsFire.com. Interested residents can also visit the firehouse on 48 Willow Grove Road or call (609) 268-1114.