Firehouse takes community behind the scenes

For the fourth consecutive year, the Geneseo Fire Department held an open house on Saturday April 25 for the community. Welcoming the public into the fire station for a look into the firefighting world, the department provided information about its work and demonstrated various situations and rescue techniques. This annual event is meant to connect the department with its community on a more personal level, as well as act as a recruitment opportunity. “Between a third and a half of our roster is made up of Geneseo students. This year we’re graduating what are now very seasoned members,” Fire Chief Andrew Chanler said in a phone interview. “Those are the people we’re relying on daily for the whole community. Hopefully with the incoming freshman class in the fall, we’ll be able to recruit some new folks.”

Although the annual open house is primarily inspired by the Firemen’s Association of the State of New York—which encourages the station to use the event as more of a statewide recruitment drive—Chanler stressed the relational aspect of the publicity process. “Our best recruitment for new members is positive word of mouth from existing members,” he said. “It’s a great thing for us and helps perpetuate our volunteer membership.”

Through the informational events at the open houses each spring, the department hopes to not only attract prospective recruits for fire and ambulance services, but to also allow the public, families and friends of the volunteers to put faces to names and gain a better understanding of what daily life is like at the firehouse. “It’s not often that our doors are open for events, so it is a great opportunity for people to see what they normally just hear about,” Chanler said.

Established in 1834, the Geneseo Fire Department is the oldest in the county and oldest ambulance service in the town. It handles about 1,650 ambulance runs and about 285 fire calls per year. With approximately 113 registered volunteer members, the department largely consists of Geneseo students. With such a considerable student base, the department counts on a fresh group of volunteers from the college each year.

“I think that our department—along with the SUNY students involved—brings a great relationship between the community and the college that serves us both really well,” Chanler said. “It’s essential to have these student volunteers working with us; it’s a great benefit and I can’t thank our students enough for what they do.”

Chandler urged anyone with an inclination to become involved to reach out. “If there are students who are interested in volunteering, the best means for that right now is to call the firehouse and leave a message.”