Fire chief seeks volunteers
Department often short on firefighters during workdays
GREENFIELD — Fire Chief Loren White is seeking to form a volunteer study committee with the purpose of furthering community involvement and raising the number of volunteer firefighters readily available to the town.
The Greenfield Fire Department currently operates with 20 volunteer firefighters, according to White.
“I’m looking for ten committee members, I do not necessarily want members of the select board or current volunteer firefighters, I’m looking for Greenfield residents,” said White in a recent interview.
White originally made the public aware of his idea at town meeting on March 11, where he says he was approached by a few people who were willing to help him out.
“I would like the committee to seek why people are not volunteering, and find out how we can make volunteering more appealing to the townspeople,” said White. Being entirely volunteer, the department has had problems retaining its members. Six volunteers retired during the past 12 months, according to White.
White would like to see the departments enrollment go up to 30 firefighters. “It has always troubled me that people are not interested in being volunteers,” he said. White believes that new members would inspire others in town to become more active.
Currently, Greenfield firefighters are paged by Southwestern Mutual Aid located in Keene. Being a volunteer department, there are no scheduled shifts. The vast majority of the volunteer firefighters do not work in Greenfield on weekdays, so when a call comes in, often the best chance the department has for immediate assistance is local retirees, according to White.
“Response is much better in the evening, when everyone is out of work,” White said. “Surrounding towns are able to help via Mutual Aid. The town is split into segments, the closest bordering town to the location of the call is notified through Mutual Aid. Even if just a few of the surrounding towns’ personnel are able to assist us, it makes for all of the difference in the world.”
The town of Greenfield is pushing 200 calls annually, according to White. Seventy-five percent of those calls are rescue calls.
“Fire safety and awareness has taken a big step forward,” said White. White has been with the fire department since 1986 and estimates that he has seen 10 “significant structure fires” in that time.
Monetary incentive is not out of the question, the funds would have to come from fund raising, according to White. “We could either fund raise or we would need to get voters to approve about $75,000 to provide hourly wages for responders. That would double our budget.” The department’s budget for 2014 is $78,850.
Select board member Margaret Charig Bliss believes that Greenfield could use a fire department committee as long as its goals are finite. “A successful committee has a focus. I don’t want a committee that doesn’t know its purpose and goals,” said Charig Bliss.
White is aware that there are other volunteer fire departments in the area and believes that if the proposed committee is successful, it could be adopted in surrounding towns. White will meet with the Select Board on Wednesday and hopes to form the committee soon afterward.