Fire company needs volunteers to continue providing top service
By Steven Hoffman
When Brian Kelley started volunteering at the Oxford Union Fire Company No. 1 in 2000, there would be three or more new members signing up each month.
But that changed over time.
As fire chief, Kelley spends upwards of 40 hours per week at the fire house. It's not uncommon for volunteer members to spend 20 or 25 hours each week fighting fires, taking care of the equipment, or training.
“It's been very busy,” Kelley said. “There is a lot of time and effort that goes into running a firehouse. We can use all the help that we can get.”
“On a working fire we can get up to 50 active members. We're lucky to have as many people as we do,” Kelley said.
Safety is a paramount concern for anyone who responds to fire calls. There are certifications required to ride on the apparatus, but Kelley
“We try to accommodate their training,” Kelley said. “They are required to have 24 hours of in-house training each year. That training tells them how the Union Fire Company operates.”
Volunteer firefighters often join in the beginning because a family member introduced them to it. Kelley's grandfather was a past fire chief in Newark, Del.
“I've always wanted to do this,” he said. “This is where I live. If I don't come, who is going to do it?”
The fire company attempts to recruit junior members from the high school. Junior members can start at the age of 16 and they can provide valuable assistance to the firefighters.
“They can be an extra set of hands for us,” Kelley said.
Kelley said that the fire company has maybe eight junior members, but there are ten more who are between the ages of 20 and 25. Men and women of all ages can help out, and Kelley said that there are some longtime members like Rich Terry who are in their sixties. Longtime members like Terry, Lonnie Brown, and Steve Gray are invaluable to the fire company.
“Whenever you need them, those guys are still out there doing whatever you need,” Kelley said.
Those who volunteer 20 or 25 hours a week at the fire company
“My wife is very understanding,” Kelley said. “She encourages me to continue to do what I do here.”
Companies like Oxford previously relied on all-volunteer fire and ambulance service, but many companies in Chester County have long ago been forced to make a change to a paid ambulance service.
“Daytime is when we're most short,” Kelley said. “If you listen around the county when calls come in, a lot of companies are trying to find enough drivers and people to respond to a call."