The Next Generation Starts to Bloom

Let me begin this visit with you with a couple of simple observations. I have been a member of the fire service for over 37 years. That tells me a couple of things. Number one is the fact that I am a heck of a lot older than when I made my first run as a U.S. Air Force firefighter many years ago. That is simply an honest admission of chronological fact. The second fact is that this much time in the service has allowed me to develop a certain long-term perspective on things.

I have seen the trends come and go. I can recall a time when wooden ladders were the only way to go. I can remember the reason for open cabs. Old-timers told me that was so that the windows would not fog up in the cold weather. It was not a great reason, but it was a reason nonetheless. And of course there were the days when only sissies wore breathing apparatus of any kind.

Today such things are the source of much humor among the younger troops. How could we ever have been so foolish to subscribe to such things? Thankfully they have gone the way of the Dodo bird.

Another trend that I have seen over the past several decades involves the number of people who choose to volunteer for our local fire departments. I can honestly say that I have seen a decidedly downward trend in most places I have served as a consultant. The same might be said about many other places in the United States and Canada. As you are all probably aware, many our volunteer rosters have been seriously shrinking.

I like to use my own volunteer fire department as an example of one fairly average organization. It is for that reason that I think I see a glimmer of hope of the horizon.

During the early years of my membership in Adelphia, we rarely had problems. Many members were still farming their land, and a number of others worked for Howell Township. My late father-in-law, John Miller, was the Township Clerk for more than 30 years. I can recall many years when he made nearly 100 percent of the calls. Heck, for a number of years, our fire company President, the late Toby Roe, Sr. was the Mayor of our community.

When I joined the Adelphia Fire Company in 1972, we were averaging well over a 40 member response for structural fires. An interesting point to ponder comes from the fact that every time the fire siren sounded back in those days, there was normally a real reason for the response. Rare indeed was the false alarm.

Of course you have to remember that this was in the days before smoke detectors, and carbon monoxide detectors. When we did have a malicious false alarm, it was the topic of conversation for many days.

Over the years there was a noticeable shrinking of the membership roster. As the older members passed on, their ranks were not always filled. By the early 1980