Cadets Lily Taylor (left) and Sammy White (right) do a check on a Company 1 Engine. (Photo credit Lauren Feldman)

Plainview Seeking Volunteer Firefighters

As part of a statewide effort to increase volunteer firefighters, the Firefighters Association of the State of New York’s (FASNY) 15th Annual RecruitNY campaign kicked off at the Plainview Fire Department located at 885 Old Country Rd, in Plainview.

A truck from Plainview’s Fire Company 3.

The past several years have been challenging for volunteer fire departments throughout the state. Many are faced with decreased membership and increased call volume. Nearly 90 percent of fire departments across New York State are volunteer based. The state-wide volunteer fire service has 10,000 fewer members today than it did a decade ago. Over the past several years, statewide fire departments have experienced difficulties in recruiting and retaining volunteers for a variety of reasons. Volunteer fire departments need to bolster their emergency responder numbers, so they can continue to provide the optimum level of protection for their residents.

FASNY recently released a survey of New York State residents’ perceptions of volunteer firefighters. The results showed 49 percent of New Yorkers expressed interest in becoming a volunteer firefighter. According to data from the FASNY survey two-thirds of respondents, around 66 percent, said they would visit their local fire station to gain more information on becoming a volunteer.

Enter RecruitNY, a FASNY recruitment initiative designed to help increase volunteer membership among local fire departments by simply opening the doors to the firehouse. Established in 2011, RecruitNY is a joint undertaking by the Firemen’s Association of the State of New York (FASNY), the New York State Association of Fire Chiefs (NYSAFC), Association of Fire Districts of New York State, Volunteer Fire Police Association of the State of New York, and County Fire Coordinators Association of the State of New York. Recently, the Plainview Fire Department joined in on this initiative and welcomed residents to see what the life of a volunteer firefighter is all about!

Events included tours of the firehouse and apparatus, allowing visitors to try on turnout gear, and providing visitor activities and stations throughout the firehouse. Members also discussed the requirements to be a volunteer, as well as conducted demonstrations, answered questions, and let visitors know how to join their fire department.

Firefighter / EMT Colby Kusinitz (right)
does an equipment check in Truck 3 with
a cadet.

Colby Kusinitz, volunteer firefighter and EMT, described what a day in the life of a volunteer might look like. “The bell rings, and we drop whatever we’re doing and head to the station. If it’s a medical call, we hop in the ambulance, if it’s a fire call, we put on our gear and hop on a truck on an engine to go do whatever needs to be done.”

Evan Schwartz, fire captain, expressed the importance of community involvement. “Long Island is 100 percent made up of volunteer mothers and fathers. If we don’t get up out of bed when someone calls 911, no one comes to help. It is entirely reliant on volunteers taking time away from their families and jobs.”

“Volunteerism is down across the board, in all sectors, especially in New York,” explained Kusinitz. “There are about 160 departments in New York State, all but 2 or 3 are volunteer.” He said that the need for volunteers is relevant not only to the department, but also the average New Yorker. “Volunteer firefighters help save taxpayers about $3 billion a year in benefits and salaries. We do this for free because we love it, we love to help our communities.”

Maggie Paley works as an EMT for the department. She said her brother, who has worked as a paramedic with the department for a few years, got her interested. “He would tell me stories and it all just sounded so interesting.” She has enjoyed the familial aspects of the department. “It’s a really strong camaraderie, and great for networking and meeting new people. You kind of become a big family.”

Lily Taylor started off in the Juniors, a youth recruitment program, before joining the cadets. She said that getting an exploratory dive into fire service and EMS work really opened her eyes to the impact volunteers have in their community, and how much fun you can have along the way. “I wasn’t originally planning on joining the department until the cadet program, and then I fell in love with it… Volunteer fire department offers a sense of community, a sense of family. It’s been really cool to be a part of it.”

Oyster Bay Town Supervisor Joseph Saladino, Councilwoman Vicki Walsh and Tax Receiver Jeff Pravato joined County Executive Bruce Blakeman and North Hempstead Supervisor Jen DeSena, and members of local fire service at the Plainview Fire Department to encourage Nassau County residents to get involved. “The men and women of our fire service are heroes in our communities, and Long Island’s bravest need our help with finding new recruits” said Supervisor Saladino. “We’re calling on neighbors to join their ranks so they can continue to provide the best level of protection to their residents. Together with my colleagues in Town government, we take great pleasure in recognizing these exemplary individuals, who put their lives on the line to protect all of ours.”

In addition, Executive Blakeman announced the website which outlines requirements and benefits to volunteering in fire service.

Kusinitz has enjoyed every minute of his time as a volunteer. “You get to feel a sense of pride, you get to help your neighbors, there’s really nothing more American.”

For more information on future RecruitNY events, or how to get involved at your local station, visit

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