BEACON FALLS — Beacon Hose Company No. 1 needs a few good men or women to serve their town.
The town’s fire and emergency medical response service has always been staffed by volunteers, mostly men whose fathers also served. But as life has become busier, even in small towns like Beacon Falls, and the training for the job has vastly increased, the number of volunteers has steadily dropped. And now the town is starting an active recruitment campaign to increase its fire and emergency response service ranks.
“We need to augment what we have now and plan for the future,” Fire Chief James Trzaski said.
The department’s roster includes 60 members of which about half are active members certified and fit to respond to calls. The department responds to about 700 calls a year, about 500 of which are emergency medical calls and the rest fire calls. Several years ago, the department decided to staff an ambulance with a two-member crew, five days a week from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., the busiest time for medical calls. The town also now bills insurance companies for the service.
Most of the members are trained as both medical and fire responders.
Trzaski said he needs more active members in the pool of members to draw from. He would like to add at least 10 more. This is the first time in years that the department has to conduct an active recruiting campaign. It has mostly relied on referrals from members and word of mouth. The department is a tight-knit group.
Less than a dozen volunteers sat around a table on a recent Monday night at Beacon Hose Company No. 1, at the department’s weekly meeting.
The talk around the table is the usual: scheduling weekly meetings for Wednesdays in order to accommodate coaching and children sports schedules, the annual June carnival and, of course, friendly banter with the chief whose baseball team can’t seem to clinch a victory.
Members are of different ages, some older and some just out of high school. The town offers $1,000 tax breaks to members who respond to at least half the calls. Life members who are 55 years of age and older and with more than 20 years of service also get a monthly stipend. Members also get life insurance.
The job is demanding, with as many as 20 hours a week dedicated to the department that include training and calls. Then there are the social events. Beacon Hose is the heart of Beacon Falls, located at 35 North Main St. It organizes a Carnival in June, the town’s biggest event, and it holds numerous smaller ones, including an Easter egg hunt and pancake breakfasts. It raises money for scholarships for local students, needy families, the local baseball and softball teams and a local Boy Scout troop.
“Just about every weekend,” Trzaski said is taken up with activities.
Often the department invites the family of new recruits to meet the rest of the firefighter family “so that the family has an understanding of what they’re getting themselves into,” Trzaski said.
For Trzaski, whose father was a lifelong member of Beacon Hose and whose son is also a firefighter, serving his community was not a matter of choice as much as part of his DNA.
“At the end of the day, knowing that you helped someone is your reward,” said Trzaski, who retired from the Naugatuck Fire Department last year.
A recruitment meeting is scheduled for May 27 at the Beacon Hose Company No. 1. For applications and more information, visit beaconhose.com.