Published in the North East News-Journal, April 21, 2023 Edition
From staff reports
Fuller Hose Co., 68 S. Pearl St., will be opening its doors for a recruitment event for the first time on Saturday, April 29, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The fire department is seeking new active members to serve as volunteers within the North East community. Members can volunteer as firefighters (exterior or interior), Emergency Medical Technicians/Responders, fire police/traffic control, water rescue or SCUBA team members.
“The financial assistance offered by North East Borough and North East Township in 2023 has allowed us to start working on more projects designed to create a positive impact within our community,” Fuller Hose President Chris Skrekla said. “We have worked with First Arriving out of Ashland, Va., to help develop and launch a new website focused on increasing our membership of volunteer firefighters from the available pool of North East residents.”
Historically, Fuller Hose has filled its ranks with family members of its current volunteers. For many families, it has become tradition to join the fire department upon reaching their 21st birthday. The reason to join may be different for every volunteer but Fuller Hose’s goal is to contribute to the protection of lives and property within the North East community.
“This recruitment event will be the first time we’ve actively opened our doors seeking new members. Our members take a great deal of pride in their service to the North East community, and we sincerely appreciate the fact that this service is recognized, appreciated and supported by the people of North East,” Skrekla said. “Being a volunteer firefighter is about building and practicing those fundamental skills that are called upon in an emergency situation; those same skills will also benefit you in real life.
“At the firehouse and in the community, Fuller Hose members have a sense of belonging and feel valued and respected by those they serve with,” Skrekla said. “We welcome families of all backgrounds and prepare them to serve as successful members and leaders, benefiting the North East community and beyond.”
According to the U.S. Fire Administration, volunteers account for 96.8% of firefighters in Pennsylvania – the third highest percentage in the country. The national average is 70.2%.
Most new applicants interviewed have no previous firefighting experience. All equipment and formal instruction and hands-on training is provided to the member at no cost. These skills can lead to a full-time career within public safety or can be applied to a wide variety of commercial employment opportunities in the real world. All training is professionally delivered by state-certified instructors.
Eligibility for a membership are as follows:
The applicant must reside in North East Borough or North East Township.
The applicant must be at least 21 years old.
The applicant must have a valid Pennsylvania driver license.
The applicant must be able to pass the following screenings: doctor administered medical screening (physical) and criminal background check.
“There isn’t a typical profile for a volunteer firefighter; they come from all walks of life,” Skrekla said. “Within Fuller Hose, the average age of volunteers is between 35 to 40. Do not ever think you are too old to learn a new skill set that can have a positive impact in the community.”
Applicants will also be required to divvy up their personal time not just for emergency calls but for mandatory meetings, drills and practices.
Fuller Hose holds a mandatory business meeting the first Tuesday of each month then weekly drills/practice sessions are conducted every Tuesday thereafter. All time spent at the station volunteering can be applied to earning tax credits for local property taxes (up to 20%) and income tax credit (up to 20%). For those who have college loans there is also an opportunity to have a portion of that loan forgiven by volunteering and applying for public safety loan forgiveness.
“When it comes to training new members, we try to set a pace for the members to achieve their goals, without being overwhelmed,” Skrekla said. “Once accepted, the member is placed on a six-month probation period to get a feel for company operations, and the roles we play in a variety of emergency situations. They also learn about and have an opportunity to participate in the various non-emergency services we provide to the community.”
Within the first year, a new member can expect to be enrolled into formal educational programs to obtain the knowledge and needed training to serve the community as a volunteer firefighter.
All members are also expected to assist in fundraising efforts completed yearly by the department such as the North East Firemen’s Cherry Festival held annually in July and Cash Bash held in August.
“We ask anyone interested in learning more or interested in applying to come to the event with their family and ask questions, tour the station, learn more about what we do to serve our community and to speak with active members and their families about Fuller Hose,” Skrekla said.
The North East Community has been served by volunteer firefighters since Dec. 31, 1885.
Fuller Hose typically responds to 350-450 calls per year ranging from fires, vehicle accidents, water rescues and a variety of other calls for service.
If unable to attend the event, visit https://fullerhoseco1.com or call 814-725-3308 and leave a message.
Members of Fuller Hose Co. stand out in front of the station, 68 S. Pearl St., for a group photo. The fire department is looking to increase its volunteer service members with a recruitment event on Saturday, April 29, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.