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HVFCo Needs Volunteers Like You to Help the Haddam Community!

By K. Brown.

This holiday season, give the gift of giving back to your community by becoming part of the Haddam Volunteer Fire Company.

Training

Training

The company is currently seeking volunteers to join the ranks as Firefighter, Emergency Medical Services, Support Staff, Auxiliary, and the Junior Division (age 14-17). You can apply at the HVFCo. website.

“The Haddam Volunteer Fire Company takes pride in our commitment to help the citizens of both Higganum and Haddam, and we’re in need of more volunteers to join our tradition,” said Lt. John Kuzminski, who has served almost 20 years. “Courage, commitment and community. That’s what we’re all about.”

People from all walks of life can help out at the fire department. Currently, there are members who are engineers and lawyers, contractors and plumbers, police officers, retirees, military staff, mechanics and electricians. Everyone has something in common: a desire to help out in their community.

Professional firefighters make an average base salary of $47,606 per year in Connecticut (see this link for more information). Having an all volunteer fire company in our town saves tax dollars. But if we don’t have enough volunteers to respond to emergencies, then the town will have to hire professionals.accident nov 15

“Our volunteers are the core of our community and are dedicated citizens,” said First Selectman Lizz Milardo. “Their tireless dedication and time commitment allows our community to be safe [which] is truly a blessing and we are fortunate to have them.”

“Being a member of a fire department is like being a part of another family – a family dedicated to helping others in their greatest time of need,” said Kuzminski, who also chairs the company’s Membership Committee.  “When someone dials 911, they’re often having one of the worst days of their life. When you arrive on the scene with your training and your compassion, you’re helping them put their life back in order. It can be extremely rewarding.”

The company currently has 43 active members, but has the ability and need to support 70 members. And typically only a handful are available during the day, according to Olivia Drake, public information officer.

House Fire (Feb 2016)

House Fire (Feb 2016)

“One of our biggest challenges is retaining daytime responders,” Drake said. “We’re fortunate that the so-called ‘day crew’ are retirees, stay-at-home parents, or work in the town or for the town of Haddam, and have the ability to respond to emergencies. Anyone else who shows up to calls is usually taking time off from their regular day job. This is why building our roster is so important.”

The fire department is not just for young men, as many believe. There are seven women serving currently in the HVFCo. including three firefighters, two Junior Division members and two support members including Drake, who also serves as the company photographer and oversees the company’s website and social media.

“I personally have no desire to go into a burning building, but I do have a desire to help, and by being a photographer and public relations person, I am able to use my own skills to support the company,” Drake said. “One day I might be writing an article on chimney fire prevention for the public, or photographing a vehicle fire, and other days, I may be taking out the trash at Station One, but being a support member alleviates work on the firefighters so they can concentrate on their own role.”

Jr Division Pasta Dinner

Jr Division Pasta Dinner

I asked Zachary Oullette, age 18, and currently in college for Fire Science/Arson Investigation about his time in the Junior Division. He said, “the Junior Division is designed for teenagers who want to learn about the fire service.  You won’t find a Junior in a burning building, or using the Jaws of Life to get someone out of a wreck; however, they will be providing support at those scenes by gathering the necessary tools or providing medical assistance if they’re trained in EMS.  Joining the Juniors is a great choice if a teenager wants to be involved in their community while exploring the possibilities of a career in the fire service.” He continued, “I’ve been around Haddam Fire my whole life, so it’s no surprise that the guys and girls there are like family to me.  When I started considering what I wanted to do with my future, I decided one of the best ways to get started would be to follow in my father’s footsteps and join Haddam Fire.”

“The Volunteer Fire Company of the Town of Haddam” had its first meeting on February 7, 1930. Today, the Haddam Volunteer Fire Company averages 500-600 calls per year. About 60 percent are medical emergencies, but there are motor vehicle accidents, carbon monoxide concerns, structure fires and brush fires, among other things.

carfire1“Many of our firefighters are also medically trained, so we work closely with Haddam Volunteer Ambulance Service and Middlesex Hospital Paramedics to provide a complete pre-hospital emergency care system for Haddam residents,” said Chief Sam Baber, who has served with the company for 16 years.

Members meet each Monday, and train on average three nights per month. The first Monday of the month is the company’s business meeting. All members must attend nine of the 12 monthly meetings. Members must make a minimum 10 percent of calls in a given year. Alternately, they can sign up for a “Duty Night” during the week and make themselves available as part of a response team.

Durham Fair Fire Watch

Durham Fair Fire Watch

As volunteers, members not only respond to calls, but they’re encouraged to join committees and participate in community activities. Throughout the year, members march in parades, provide fire standby at the Durham Fair and local events, host a Touch-a-Truck, and visit local schools to teach children about fire prevention and safety.

The following are open positions in the company:

Firefighter: The core idea is to preserve life and property in the Town of Haddam. Firefighters will be trained on how to safely operate en route to and on the scene of an emergency. Firefighting tasks include combating, extinguishing and preventing fires of all types. Members will also drive and operate fire apparatus, use power tools including the Jaws of Life and learn fireground operating procedures which include strategy tactics as well as safety techniques. Prior experience in the Fire Service is not required.

Firefighter candidates must be 18 or older (no upper age limit but you need to pass a physical/be physically fit to be a firefighter), have a Connecticut driver’s license and a satisfactory driving record, pass various background checks and a physical exam. HVFCo welcomes residents from every walk of life.

All firefighters must complete the Firefighter I course, a 14-week program with about 200 hours of classroom and practical time. Classes generally consist of one evening class during the week and classes on every other weekend. As the initial entry program for firefighting personnel, Firefighter I introduces firefighting concepts, practices and techniques necessary for success within the Fire Service. Candidates must pass a written exam and a practical test to complete the course. Firefighter candidates receive a pager and personal protective equipment including bunker pants, coat, hood, boots, firefighting gloves, goggles and a helmet. Dress uniforms also are provided.

Emergency Medical Services (EMS): The Fire Company provides EMS service to residents of Higganum and Haddam and prepare them for transport. Members are encouraged to become a licensed Emergency Medical Responder (EMR) or Emergency Medical Technician (EMT). The courses are paid by the department.

Fire Police: Fire Police provide scene safety to Firefighters and First Responders working at a scene. Fire Police also manage traffic concerns away from emergency scenes and protect the public from entering an active scene. Fire Police are trained through HVFCo.’s own training program, however a certified fire police class is offered and recommended.

Support Member : The Fire Company is always looking for members to help with various administrative, day-to-day operations. These non-firefighting roles include secretary, treasurer and historian, among others. There are also numerous committees to serve on (HVFCo.’s only current support members include Company Photographer, Treasurer and Chaplain).

Jr Division "Fill the Boot" 2015

Jr Division “Fill the Boot” 2015

Junior Division – Candidates  are 14- to 17-year-old cadets who learn alongside firefighters and perform support functions at calls. The company accepts up to 10 Junior Members at any given time. Juniors receive training and protective turnout gear. Once a Junior member is 18, he or she has the opportunity to join the regular membership. Positions are currently open for Juniors. Juniors are encouraged to take additional training at the Connecticut Fire Academy.

HVFCo Auxiliary group picture (2015)

HVFCo Auxiliary group picture (2015)

Auxiliary – Supports the members of HVFCo. with fundraising efforts and may assist on calls by providing snacks and refreshments. For more information about the Auxiliary, see these articles: Celebrating 50 Years and Reasons to Join.

“Being a member of the Haddam Volunteer Fire Company can be a rewarding and fulfilling experience,” says Lt. Kuzminski. “It’s about the fire service, extended family and community service. There is no better feeling than helping someone on their worst day. Please come join our fine tradition!”

Photos by Olivia Drake.