Finding ‘the needle in the haystack’

Volunteer fire department launches a recruitment campaign

Special to The Sun: The fire department’s volunteer recruitment campaign has a tagline: “Become Moore: Professional Volunteers, Everyday People.” Some volunteers could see college tuition discounts of up to 10 percent.

The Moorestown Fire Department has launched a new volunteer recruitment campaign that includes a new tagline: “Become Moore: Professional Volunteers, Everyday People.”

“I think there’s so many people in Moorestown that think we’re a career fire department, and it’s nice to just get out to as many homes as we can, and to as many people as we can, the fact that we are still a volunteer fire department,” said Chris Chesner, its district administrator, who cited the difficulty of keeping a volunteer staff.

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‘’We go to many houses where we’ll talk to the residents and they do think we’re a career fire department and we’re not,” he added. “And they’re very surprised.”

Volunteer opportunities include joining Rowan College at Burlington County (RCBC) and the department’s co-op membership. According to moorestownfire.org, the department and college have partnered to increase volunteer membership in the fire company, foster education and provide tuition incentives. 

The partnership includes a tuition discount program – up to 10 percent – for Rowan students who volunteer eight hours a week with the fire department. Students who volunteer 16 hours a week could be eligible for up to $1,500 per semester. Requirements include holding a Firefighter 1 Division of Fire Safety certification from the state and being declared physically fit. Volunteers must be 18 or older.

“ … We’re doing everything we can to keep from moving towards a combination department, or a fully career department,” Chesner noted. “We’re trying to keep it volunteer, and these are all the programs that we offer.”

The department also needs fire police and junior auxiliary members. No prior experience is necessary, and training and equipment are free.

“If we continue to remain a volunteer fire department, taxes can stay relatively flat in the fire district,” Chesner explained. “The biggest challenge we have as a fire district is, if we start hiring individuals, the tax rate is going to go up. By keeping it a volunteer fire department, the effect on the community will be a flatter tax rate, because the volunteers are offsetting that by not having to pay (them) salaries.”

Anyone interested in volunteering can learn more at Fire Prevention Night, Friday at 6 p.m. at the Lenola Fire Department, or on the department website, https://moorestownfire.org

“We’re looking for all sorts of members,” Chesner said. “We would love to get more firefighters, those that can get on the trucks, pull the hose and put out the fire … We’re pushing for that person that lives in town, who’s raising their family in town (and) who’s going to be here for some time … 

“We’re hoping that by having this recruitment program, we’ll find more of them. The needle in the haystack.”

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