by Todd Bender
The Pawling Fire Department (PFD) is a 100% volunteer fire department that covers almost 48 square miles and has been doing so since 1895. The department, according to District Chief Everett White, has more than 50 active volunteers who are ready to respond at any time of the day or night to come to the aid of their neighbors. Of the contributions of his department, Chief White says, “The members of our department, myself included, feel that it’s our civic duty and our way of giving back to the community.”
All members of the department go through extensive training both initially and ongoing to perform their duties safely and effectively. Chief Everett White constantly stresses the need for training, and his firefighters respond enthusiastically to the rigors. The department recently obtained a “Forced Entry” simulator with grant money to help firefighters learn the various techniques that can be used to gain entry to the site of an emergency. The simulator door, which arrived in April, was put through its paces by a number of firefighters who, after using it, were better suited to safely gain entry through a door in emergency situations.
The department also trains members on the different uses of the wide array of apparatus owned by the district. The department has three fire stations throughout town that house different equipment at the locations. Spread out among the firehouses are a tower ladder truck, three tankers, two brush trucks, three engines, a source pumper, a heavy rescue truck, a Utility Task Vehicle, and several support vehicles.
More than 70 percent of firefighters in New York State are volunteers and, in keeping in line with a national trend, membership numbers are dwindling. Many departments throughout New York are being faced with an inability to respond to calls because no volunteers are available. This has caused many departments to start hiring professional firefighters to cover shifts and supplement the volunteer force. This expensive undertaking has started taking place in Dutchess County in the towns of Pleasant Valley and Hyde Park. Other departments that have a combination of paid and volunteer firefighters include Arlington, LaGrange, and the City of Beacon. The Pawling Fire Department welcomes applications from anyone willing to become a volunteer. Applications can be obtained by visiting Station 1 at 125 South Street in Pawling any Monday after 7:00 p.m. and asking to speak with a line officer. Additional information can be found at www.pawlingfire.org.