By Captain Paul F. Harrington, Sr., Cronomer Valley Fire Department
Many firefighters are asked why they volunteer, but there remains an unanswered question of how. There is no short answer for either one. But, what I would like to share with you is my experience of how my commitment to serving the community where I reside is of the utmost importance.
It all started when I joined the Malone Callfiremen Explorer Post back in 1988 in high school. I was the first in my family to become involved as a volunteer firefighter. It wasn’t long until I graduated and moved on to my enlistment in the U.S. Air Force. I was stationed at Plattsburgh Air Force Base and soon found my way into the doors at Rescue Hose Co. No. 5 in the city of Plattsburgh.
I remained there for six years when I was called upon to attend the State Corrections Academy in Albany. I relocated to the Newburgh area with my new state job in hand. Yet again, I wasted no time finding my way into the doors at the Good-Will Fire Department, where I served 14 years. I moved to the other side of town and transferred into the Cronomer Valley Fire Department, where I currently serve as Captain, Car 4. Of the eight years to date with Cronomer Valley, seven of them have been as a line officer.
My schedule is one full-time job after another. I have made great use of every hour in each day. Time is an asset to me in many ways. But, more importantly, so is my family.
My loving wife of 13 years, Pamela, and our two children, Paul Jr. and Kendra, have been ever so supportive in my volunteerism in our community.
I currently work full-time for the State of New York, I am a professional photographer who owns a portrait studio in the town of Newburgh, and with my position of Captain at Cronomer Valley, I find myself running nonstop. Being the Captain is a full-time job in itself. Additionally, I am the vice president of the Chadwick Lake Commons Homeowner’s Association and serve on the Town of Newburgh Justice Committee.
So, again the question of “how” remains. When a prospective applicant shows interest and desire to become a member, the question of how will be apparent once again. We are in a day and age where fire departments across the state are seeking to strengthen their membership. Many families are now working multiple jobs, finding no time to volunteer the countless hours needed for initial training and requirements that a department mandates for new members. But, this can change because there is always a way. We worry about the future of commitment but somehow, some way, in the end, it always works out.
I have made time like many other volunteer firefighters have done. It’s a basic recipe with some key ingredients that are needed for the perfect dish. But, not following that recipe could end up in a culinary disaster.
A supportive family, agreements with employers and taking the initiative to commit, among other things, are what is needed the most. If you support your community, they will support you back. There have been numerous times when someone else filled in the “void” while I was out at a fire scene, and I am not referring to mutual aid standby crews. It’s amazing the support that is there from everyone all around. A basic understanding and appreciation by others who see your efforts are essential.
In the end, hard work pays off: always has, always will. I have served an estimated 28 years in some sort of position as a volunteer firefighter in New York. There’s nothing like family, and even better, a second family to boot.