The Deptford Fire Department – after struggling with recruiting once COVID hit – is currently looking for volunteers for any of its locations across the township.
“The biggest issue is time,” said Chief Rick Thomas of the Tacoma Fire Company, also the chief of Battalion 2 for that firehouse. “People just don’t have the time like they used to. Before COVID, we used to have a lot of volunteers, but now we’re at the bottom again.”
According to Thomas, volunteers can come in numerous “shapes and sizes” and can each do their part to help out besides specifically fighting fires, including working for a canteen unit. Those Oak Valley-based units are rehabilitation centers that provide cool refreshments for firefighters.
“It looks like a food truck,” Thomas said. “But it’s decked in firefighter colors.
For young teenagers who are interested in becoming a firefighter, the department has a cadet program that is their equivalent of the police department’s Explorers program. The teens can ride along on calls to get a preview of what the job entails.
Program participants are split into age groups. They can apply online with their parents at the website of the Tacoma Fire Company, which hosts the cadet program. Regular cadets are 12 to 15 years old and primarily help around the firehouse. Junior cadets are 16 and 17 and make trips with firefighters, but not into hazardous zones. Eighteen-year-olds are classified as senior cadets who begin the proper adult training.
“We pay for the training and equipment,” Thomas explained. “All we ask for is time. We take a lot of pride in our apparatus. We have top-notch gear, equipment and good trucks.”
To apply for the cadet program, visit the Deptford fire department website or go to any of its fire companies. Oak Valley has someone available on Tuesday and Thursday; Tacoma has someone on hand Mondays and some Wednesdays; Helping Hand has people on Wednesdays; and Almonesson Lake, New Sharon, Lake Tract and Blackwood Terrace all have someone on hand on Tuesdays.