Fire Corps Hosts Volunteer Forum
Wednesday, 24 February 2010
By Jennifer Colton, The Hermiston Herald
You don’t have to fight fires to volunteer with the fire department.
That’s the message the members of the Hermiston Fire Corps would like to spread throughout Umatilla County.
Friday and Saturday, the Hermiston Fire Corps hosted the Northwest Grassroots Forum and invited departments from Oregon, Washington and Idaho to meet with national representatives, such as Lori Moon, deputy director of the national program.
“The grassroots roundtable forums provide a networking opportunity, help get ideas to the national level and enhance programs at the local level,” Moon said Friday. “One of the things that we’re really focusing on is enhancing community volunteerism and providing more assistance to the local departments from the national office. A lot of great ideas get to be shared.
Another national representative, Eddie Buchanan, forum facilitator and president of the International Society of Fire Services Instructors, said he has been traveling across the country to speak with local representatives, ask and answer questions.
“The goal is to get out where the volunteers are to find out how the national Fire Corps can better serve the local groups,” he said.
Buchanan, who is from Virginia, said raising awareness about the program and its capabilities is another goal.
“From the instructor’s perspective, there’s so much more to do in the fire industry than respond in an emergency,” he said. “People are used to volunteer firefighters, but they don’t understand that there are other volunteers. It’s critical that the community understand that. There’s so much that Fire Corps does, it’s amazing. It’s just a really cool program.”
Fire Corps began in 2004 as one of five partner programs under Citizen Corps, the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s strategy to bring together government and community leaders. Fire Corps is managed by the National Volunteer Fire Council, and the national office is funded through the Department of Homeland Security and Citizen Corps.
Stella Hickey started Hermiston Fire Department’s Fire Crops program two years ago.
“My husband is a part-time volunteer with the Fire Department, and they needed more people to come out and help with fundraisers and social events, so I started the Fire Corps program in Hermiston,” Hickey, a stay-at-home mom, said. “Fire Corps is a citizen-organized group that allows citizens who want to help out and volunteer to come into the fire department and do non-response duties. We take photos, deliver supplies, take food and water to firefighters, organize events. We do basically anything that’s not fighting the fire. You can give as much or as little time as you want. There’s always something that needs to be done.”
The Hermiston group currently has 12 roster members and is looking for any volunteers, especially teens and older volunteers. The department is also specifically looking for an historian and someone to create scrapbooks, as well as people interested in helping with fire department tours.
“Prevention is one of the biggest things we want, letting people, and kids, know how to lower their risks of fires,” Hickey said. “We want more kids involved at more ages so whenever they see someone in (firefighting gear), they know that this person in this outfit is there to save them.”
“Fundraising is a big part of our goal,” Hickey said. “Right now, we’re funded by the fire department, and we’d like to be funded on our own.”
The Fire Corps is also working to raise program awareness with other departments.
“They say 75 percent of fire departments want some sort of volunteer program but they don’t know how to go about it,” she said.