- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Although none of the county’s seven fire departments are in dire need of new members, they are always accepting applications for new volunteers for a variety of positions.
Calvert County Recruitment and Retention Specialist Kim Jones said most departments, which are constantly recruiting, “can always use new volunteers.” She said there is no maximum number of how many members a department can have.
To recruit new members, Jones said she advertises through TV commercials, educates the public and also talks to high school students about the recruitment program offered through the school system. Jones said the time of year when most of the applications are submitted is September, which she attributed to school starting and the recruitment program.
Jones said to participate in the school’s recruitment program, which is run through the Calvert Career and Technology Academy, students must be at least 16 years old. The program must have at least 15 students signed up each year, and Jones said the program averages about 19 students.
“The program has been going on since 2001 and we haven’t fallen below that 15-person mark,” she said.
As a prerequisite for the program, the students must be a volunteer at one of the county fire departments, Jones said. The training each recruit receives is paid for by the department, she said.
Training requirements include completing certifications for courses, including Firefighter 1 and 2, EMT, Hazmat operations, fire operations and engine company operations. The training, Jones said, is conducted by University of Maryland Fire and Rescue Institute instructors. Jones said if a student wishes to major in something such as fire science at the College of Southern Maryland, the credits received through the high school program would transfer and count toward their degree.
Dunkirk Volunteer Fire Department Sgt. Zachary Longfellow, 19, recently was hired as a paid Prince George’s County firefighter and attributed his getting hired to the extensive training he received through the school’s recruitment program.
When he was 17, although he had already been a member of the Dunkirk VFD for about a year and had received some training through the department, Longfellow said he joined the school’s recruitment program during his senior year in high school. He said he took and received credit for about 12 classes through the program.
Longfellow said he “110 percent” believes participating in and receiving training through the school program helped him get hired by the Prince George’s County Fire Department.
“It benefits me because a lot of people go to be a paid or career firefighter and they have no idea what they’re getting into — no experience, no training,” Longfellow said. “I’m a big step ahead of them, having 12 or 13 more classes than they do. Just the experience I’ve been fortunate to have, it’s helped me out a lot.”
Similarly to Longfellow, Prince Frederick Volunteer Fire Department member Michael Moore, 19, also joined the department at age 16 and enrolled in the school recruitment program during his senior year in high school.
Moore said during his first year with the department, he received his Firefighter 1 certification but received the rest of his certifications through the school program. After graduating high school, Moore said, he enrolled in CSM and was able to transfer the credits he earned in high school toward getting a degree.
His training also helped Moore secure a position as a paid firefighter for the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue service, he said. He said applicants had certain certifications just to apply for a position in Montgomery County, which he said he was “fortunate enough” to receive through the school program.
“The school program has helped me a lot; it taught me a lot,” Moore said. “It was just a great experience. You get the experience, you learn a lot and the biggest thing is you have fun.”
For those who are not in high school and want to be a volunteer, training is paid for and provided by the department a person applies to, Jones said. She said it generally takes between six and eight months of training before a volunteer is “cut loose” within the department.
The fire department offers incentives for members, Jones said. Calvert County Government pays up to $50,000 each year for scholarship reimbursement assistance for those attending college who meet certain requirements and $30 per day per child for day care reimbursement assistance, she said.
Those interested in volunteering can find applications at www.calvertfirerescueems.com, Jones said. Applicants are usually instructed to print out the application and submit it in person directly to the fire department they wish to apply to, but, Jones said, if an applicant does not feel comfortable going alone, she meets them at the department and introduces them to members.
Jones said the departments are not just looking for firefighters and EMTs, but also office personnel.
“People think that … the departments just need someone to ride in an ambulance or run into a burning building, but there’s actually administrative duties,” Jones said, adding that applications from “a mixture of all ages is fine.”