Open house Saturday at fire station
The event will take place from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the fire station on Narragansett Avenue. According to Fire Chief Jim Bryer, the purpose of the open house is to enlist new volunteers. However, the event will feature attractions for everyone, children included.
“We try to do the open house every year,” Bryer said. “Basically it’s a recruitment tool for us.”
Bryer said there are a number of things people can do for the allvolunteer department aside from fighting fires. Other needs include dispatchers, emergency medical technicians and drivers. Saturday is an opportunity for anyone interested to get a run down on how the department operates.
Available positions include tanker drivers who don’t fight interior fires, ladder workers who set up lights and clean up, EMTs, drivers and firefighters.
“There are a number of things that we can get people to do,” Bryer said. “We always look to see where they’re comfortable. We run them through a yearly training program so they find out on their own where they’re comfortable and where they’re not. We don’t push anybody to do anything.”
The department currently has about 100 volunteers, but new volunteers are needed when members find a paid firefighting job, leave for college or move out of town. The attrition means the department has to seek help each year. The open house has proven to be an effective recruitment tool in its five years. Bryer said when he joined the department 10 years ago, there were only about 50 volunteers. The department receives about 600 calls a year for all services.
“We try to maintain what we have so that we can work on preventing the Fire Department and EMS from becoming paid services,” Bryer said.
Since it’s a volunteer department, the amount of time required can vary. EMTs are asked to work one shift a week. The 12-hour shift can be done at once or split between two days. On the fire side, there is no set commitment. However, there is a compensation program based on the volunteer’s dedication in terms of responding to fires and attending training sessions. Members who come to at least 24 Thursday sessions in a year qualify for a tax rebate.
“There’s a set amount that we build into our town budget every year,” Bryer said. “Depending on how many people qualify and how much they do, it comes off that amount. It’s an incentive to keep people interested and keep people coming.”
While recruitment is the number one goal of the open house, the event is also held to show that department members are part of the community. They may very well be a friend or neighbor.
The fire museum will be also be open for visitors, and the department’s apparatus will be on hand for inspection. Since the open house occurs on the annual National Falls Prevention Awareness Day, Bryer has geared some of the day’s activities toward senior citizens. One group will help seniors with the “file of life” that can be kept on a refrigerator or in a wallet. The file of life allows firefighters to easily access the patient’s medical history and contact information.
Participants will also be able to have their blood pressure checked, and there will be a pharmacist on site to make sure that various medications a person might be taking are compatible. The Police Department’s senior advocate will be available as well, and a representative of Balance Fitness will demonstrate fitness techniques particularly suitable for seniors. Instructors from the Island Heron yoga studio will demonstrate stretching exercises.
“A lot of people get hurt because of balance problems and medication problems,” Bryer said. “So we’re just trying to give them a few things to look at.”
Children are welcome to attend the open house and take a ride on the antique fire truck, while Chopmist Charlie’s will provide chowder and clam cakes.
With the peak of hurricane season approaching, Bryer said the department is well prepared for any eventuality. During times of adverse weather, the department divides the island into three sections: downtown, the North End and Beavertail. Volunteers are placed in each area. Because there is no station at Beavertail or the North End, first responders set up in the homes of fellow firefighters who live in the area. Each group is responsible for handling emergencies in their area.