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Chester County Press

Fire company president talks about the need for volunteers

08/31/2021 12:19PM ● By Steven Hoffman
Deb Terry would say that being a member of Oxford Union Fire Company No. 1 is a family thing.
Terry’s family has been involved with the fire company ever since she can remember. Her parents, her husband and her children were or are volunteers with the fire company.
“I grew up here watching my mom and dad in the fire company, and seeing the progress over 150 years means everything,” she said. “Our younger generation continues this great service and tradition. We continue to move forward.”
While Terry is disappointed that the 150th anniversary celebration for the fire company in Oxford has been put on hold for now, she said that the fire company continues to focus on safety and serving the community.
“We are saddened we can’t celebrate our history, but we are always focused on the future,” she said. “Finding volunteers has become increasingly difficult. We had hoped we could throw some light on our need for volunteers during the celebration.” 
Terry is the first female fire company president in the fire company’s history, but she doesn’t dwell on that. Presidents serve one-year terms, and Terry has been reelected every year since 2017.
“It is a big responsibility, and one I don’t take lightly,” she explained. “My main goal is to continue to keep it family oriented and continue to keep it going in the right direction. I didn’t get here in this position all by myself. Many people have helped me along the way, people like Gerry Davis. He supported me and encouraged me from beginning to end.”
Terry added, “It helps having supportive people like Gary Vinnacombe, an EMS manager, and the current chief, Shane Kinsey. Whatever I need, those two are a phone call away.”
It is a fact that families have kept this fire company going, and some families go back five generations or more as volunteers. Finding volunteers has become more difficult. Oxford’s fire company is always looking for volunteers in every capacity, not just firefighters.
 Terry explained,” Recruitment is a big thing right now. It takes many hours of training to become a volunteer. It is a commitment and it’s hard for families these days. Family dynamics have changed, and it takes two to support a growing family. We know how difficult it is managing family, jobs, and adding volunteering to that can be very hard.”
Terry explained some of the ways that the fire company looks for new volunteers. “We go to career days in schools, set up on First Fridays and we’ve gotten amazing recruits through those activities. We now start legacy members at age 14. The fire company part is still 100 percent volunteer. The ambulance division is manned by paid staff. EMT’s are career staff.”
The community continues to grow, adding houses and businesses, and every new development in Oxford and the surrounding areas will always need service 24/7.  New developments and new businesses will also require new equipment and new volunteers. Fire whistles don’t just blow from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and volunteers will always be needed for a variety of reasons, beyond firefighting.
The fire company has been a great family tradition over the years, and that tradition has been passed on to the next generations. 
“Being a volunteer for the fire company doesn’t have to mean it takes away from family,” Terry said. “On the contrary, it adds to the family unit. The fire company is a great place to teach children about the importance of serving and protecting your community, and doing it together as a family provides a great opportunity for families to work together on a common goal.”
Although, the fire company’s 150th anniversary celebration is on hold, the demand for volunteers is not. Union Fire Company No. 1 is proud of their 150 years of service and volunteers can keep the tradition going. 
For more information on donating to the fire company or to become a member, visit their website at