South Lebanon Township needs firefighters, and it’s getting serious about recruiting newcomers.

The township’s fire department, comprised of its three remaining companies, Friendship, Prescott, and South Lebanon Fire Company No. 1, has launched a coordinated campaign to attract people interested in serving and protecting their community.

Feedback from members of the three companies led to the creation of a new slogan – Train with Us. Volunteer with Us. Be your Community’s Lifesaver. – and to a new recruiting website, www.fightsouthlebanonfires.org.

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“We are looking for new volunteers to serve as firefighters in the South Lebanon Fire Department,” said Township Manager Jamie Yiengst.

“Our volunteer crews are as busy as ever, and more volunteers means a safer community for everyone. There is an incentive program for volunteers meeting certain requirements, plus you will have the bonus of helping others when they need it most.”

“Training and gear are provided free, you supply your skills, time and effort,” Yiengst said. “There are three fire stations within the Township with experienced, educated firefighters who want to welcome you to their group and help you learn the ropes.”

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90% of Pennsylvania’s fire companies rely on volunteers, and it’s no secret that their numbers have been plummeting for decades.

Read More: Union Hose is looking for volunteers

A 2018 report jointly commissioned by Pennsylvania’s Senate and House of Representatives found that “the number of volunteer firefighters has been declining from about 300,000 in the 1970s to about 60,000 in the early 2000s and then to 38,000 in 2018 due to a variety of reasons including the demands on time for training and fundraising.”

The joint report also contained this warning: “If we lose our volunteer fire and EMS companies and volunteers, the taxpayers will face a very steep price tag.”

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Friendship Fire Company Chief Robert Donley said volunteering in South Lebanon has some special benefits. “We have truck, rescue and engine operations. We also have the greatest diversity of environments, from heavy urban areas to completely rural to forested areas” and “[we have] one of the most dedicated training schedules and train more than most any other company in the area.”

According to a news release from the fire department, new volunteers have a choice of opportunities:

  • Firefighter: “Train to save citizens lives during fires and other emergencies, protect property, and bring calm to chaos during the most difficult times. We will train you, gear you up, and get you ready to action in our area’s urban, industrial, suburban and farmland terrains.”
  • Driver: “Transport firefighters and equipment safely to fire calls as a trained truck, engine, and rescue apparatus driver. Drivers are an important part of our volunteer team.”
  • Cadet: “Teenagers who are 16 or 17 years old can learn about the fire service and provide assistance at a fire and at the firehouse. The Cornwall Lebanon School District allows cadet firefighters to use their service toward senior projects. Many cadet firefighters become senior firefighters when they turn 18.”
  • Contributing Member: “Showcase your skills and interests working on special projects, events, or in an administrative role at the fire company. Tell us what you like to do and we will point you toward a volunteer role that suits your talents.”

The entire cost of the recruitment campaign is funded by a grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. There is no cost to township taxpayers.

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