Before George Washington led our troops to defeat the Red Coats and help start our nation, he was helping his community as a volunteer firefighter with the Friendship Veterans Fire Engine Company in Alexandria Virginia.

Many of us take it for granted that when something goes wrong, we can pick up the phone and within minutes, the fire department will arrive to help solve the problem at hand no matter what it is.

According to the National Fire Protection Association, it’s likely that the responding firefighters may not be paid because 71 percent of firefighters in the United States are volunteers who are following in the footsteps of Washington.

This foundation of volunteerism doesn’t just stop with our first president, some other names that you’ll recognize, though most likely didn’t know were volunteer fire fighters: Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, Samuel Adams, John Hancock, Paul Revere, Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, John Barry, Aaron Burr, Benedict Arnold, James Buchanan and Millard Fillmore. In fact, before 1850 there were no paid, professional fire departments. It was all volunteer.

Though, there has been a sharp decline in volunteerism over the past 10 years, which is greatly affecting the fire service.  We now have dual income households and extended work schedules, people just can’t find the time to volunteer anymore. This trend is not unique to Whippany, which is a suburb of New York City, and follows the national trend of less volunteerism across a wide array of organizations.

We are reviewing our operations and in addition to relaying on “legacies”, which are individuals who join because their parents and grand parents were part of the organization, our department is utilizing tools like facebook , youtube and other forms of social media to reach out to people that may have never known that you can volunteer with the fire department and the benefits volunteering can offer.

John Goldberg, a 16 year old who just joined the Whippany Fire Department as a junior member explained that he has watched his older brother move up the ranks to become 2nd Lieutenant and looks forward to following in his footsteps.  John also mentioned that “it’s very important into todays’ competitive environment to get into college, things like volunteering look excellent on his application and so far he has learned a lot of real life things because the fire department is very hands on and a supportive brotherhood.”

It’s not only the younger generation that is helping to continue to fill the ranks, it’s also fathers like Ken Jubinski who has two more weeks to go before he finishes the fire academy to become a certified fire fighter. Ken has always thought about joining the fire department, though he had to put this on hold for about 10 years because he was busy raising his two sons and had a demanding schedule at work. Ken signed up this past spring and he’s now about to graduate from the fire academy and looking forward to putting what he has learned to work and help out his neighbors in their time of need.

You local fire department is always looking for a hand and they will provide you with the opportunity to make a true difference in your community, why not stop down to the firehouse and find out what it’s all about.