ADAMS TWP — The Adams Area Fire District is looking for dedicated volunteers to join its live-in program.
The program houses qualified volunteers at the station rent-free while they train and achieve qualifications and certifications to be firefighters.
Capt. Sean Sokolowski said it's a great opportunity for younger firefighters to quickly build experience and become certified in fighting fires and medical response, all on the district's dime.
“For the younger guys that are thoroughly into the fire department, and it might be something they want to do as a career, it allows you to quickly get a lot of experience,” he said.
In return for the room and training, live-in volunteers are required to spend 40 hours a week working on the station and its equipment. This provides the dual benefits of submerging new recruits in the ins and outs of what goes into fighting fires and keeping volunteers around the station in case a call comes in.
“The program has done wonders for the Adams area,” Sokolowski said. “Average response time has been right around eight, eight and a half minutes.”
It also keeps everything clean and in working order.
“We do stuff around here in the station from apparatus checks, checking the tools, equipment, making sure everything's running properly, everything's ready to go,” said Andrew Blaney.
Blaney is one of the volunteers currently in the program. He's been living at the station for the past few weeks, starting once he achieved the required certifications.
“Love it,” he said. “Good organization, definitely the one I was looking for when I came here, from the way we act on calls, from how we show up how we respond to it, what's expected for the fire department.”
He said living at the station is like a second job with the work requirements, but the workload is doable and well worth the effort.
In addition to these benefits, Sokolowski said the program offers younger volunteers the chance to make an easier transition to independence.
“It gets you in that mindset of being off on your own without being off on your own,” Sokolowski said. “It can be a good steppingstone for people making that transition.”
To live at the station, volunteers need their entry level firefighter qualification so if a call comes in they'll be cleared to respond, Sokolowski said.
The district also likes volunteers to have some medical training, said Taylor Goodlin, district volunteer.
Goodlin said he plans to move into the station as a part of the program in a few months, once he gets the qualifications. He plans to live at the station while studying to be an electrician.
“Basically you get free room and board in return for running fire and EMS calls for the area, which is a pretty good exchange,” he said.
This would allow Goodlin to continue to pursue his passion for firefighting while working toward his degree. He said the qualifications are not hard to get, but they do require time and effort.
“Absolutely doable” he said. “We have a lot of state-level certified instructors here. A lot of good people here ... It's not really hard, its just time-consuming.”
And there are other benefits to living at the station, Sokolowski said.
“When you get a group of good guys together it's a fun atmosphere for the guys to hang out,” he said. “It allows them to have that atmosphere of being at the fire station hanging with their friends and providing a service to the community and the fire department.”
Goodlin got into public safety when he was 15. He encourages anyone to give volunteering at any role a try.
“Don't knock it till you try it. Go for it,” he said. “Give it a shot if you're even remotely thinking about it; come on down. We've got something for you to do here.
“If you don't want to be an interior fireman, we got exterior support positions for you.”
Departments like Adams are always looking for volunteers in every position, not only live-in.
Goodlin said there's nothing more rewarding.
“There's no greater feeling than saving a life and being a part of saving a life, That's what we do. Yeah, we may be volunteer firemen but we still fight the same fires as the guys in the City of Pittsburgh,” he said. “Community service is one of the best things you can probably do, especially in this type of an organization.”
While the live-in program is for qualified volunteers over the age of 18, the organization does have a junior program for younger volunteers and many administrative positions for those looking to help from behind the scenes.
“This is a great way to stay close to home and still make an impact,” Goodlin said. “Any help you can possibly give us is more help than we got now.”
For more information about the live-in program or any other information, visit the district's Facebook page, website, or the station itself.
“If you have any questions or anything, we have a lot of information on our website, and also just to stop in,” said Blaney. “There's always someone here, even throughout the day. They can give you a tour through the station, what the living quarters are, do a ride along as well. See if you like it.”