GAMBER — Several hundred members of the community were at the Gamber & Community Fire Company grounds Sunday afternoon for its Open House and Recruitment Day. In addition to demonstrating the nature of its work to the community, the fire company hoped that the day of training, drills and exhibitions would convince those who are so inclined to volunteer.
"All 14 Carroll County volunteer fire companies are busy these days, and the Gamber department is no different. Gamber runs an overall average of about 925 EMS calls and 400 FIRE calls per year," according to Emergency Medical Services Lt. Bridget Weishaar, a spokesperson for the fire company.
"Gamber currently has about 15 volunteers who actively come out to respond on calls on a routine basis. Due to short staffing … over the years we have hired full-time 24/7 EMS coverage and … two engineers … to assist with getting out the fire apparatus," explained Weishaar.
"We are definitely looking for more volunteers, all the time, absolutely," said Michael Franklin, the Gamber president, "Carroll County is seeing increased traffic, more fires, and a huge spike in EMS calls. We need the help."
Carroll County State's Attorney Brian DeLeonardo highlighted the need for more volunteers with the county fire departments that is due to the opioid crisis.
"For example, the rate of overdoses strains … our county first responders that answer every call for help," texted DeLeonardo.
One of the focal points of the afternoon for much of the crowd was the side-by-side burn demonstration involving two typical home scenarios — one with sprinklers and one without. "About 2,570 people in the US die every year in house fires. That's about seven lives lost every single day in America," said Bruce Bouch, the Gamber public information officer and a senior deputy Maryland state fire marshal.
"You be the judge of the effectiveness of a home residential sprinkler system in saving the lives of family, pets, and firefighters," said Bouch as the fire in the demonstration unit was extinguished quickly by the installed sprinkler system.
To meet the challenge of recruiting volunteers, Gamber decided to think outside the box, said Weishaar in a phone interview. "We made the decision to combine our Public Safety Open House with our recruitment and retention efforts (so) the public gets to see what we do as a fire service through our demonstrations."
"The county commissioners are also thinking out of the box. The board is trying to develop a program that would offer a housing incentive to men and women who would live and volunteer with their local fire department," said Richard Weaver, R-District 2, while sitting a table with Dennis Frazier, R-District 3.
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"We need more tools to attract young volunteers in the county," said Frazier. "One idea we've talked about in the past is offering free tuition to Carroll Community College — if you volunteer. Of course, we need to get this to work with a tight budget." Weaver agreed, "Fire, police, and education are the cornerstones of the county." "No doubt, these are the building blocks," agreed Frazier.