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May 15, 2014

Fly Creek Fire Company growing strong

By Bera Dunau Staff Writer
Cooperstown Crier

---- — The Fly Creek Volunteer Fire Company is experiencing growth, but they are still interested in more volunteers.

“We’ve had an increase in membership, particularly a lot of young people,” said Christine Voulo, president of the company.

Voulo said that over the last six months, six people have joined the fire company. Of these new members, two have become firefighters, three have joined the fire police and one has joined the auxiliary. 

The fire police secure the site of a fire and direct traffic there, while the auxiliary primarily engage in fundraisers. Of these new members, four were women and two were men. According to Chief Mike Thayer, the company has about 30 members total.

Voulo said that this increase has been the result of the company getting the word out that they are looking for new members, as well as the recognition that the company has received from fighting some recent fires.

“I think the community's starting to really see the good that we do. These are your neighbors,” said Voulo.

Voulo also related the incident that motivated her and her husband to join. She said that they joined the company two years ago after the carbon monoxide detector went off in their home and they had to call 911. She said that the fire company came and were very professional, even showing concern for the snow they tracked into the house.

“I found out later on that that was the night of their Christmas Dinner,” said Voulo. “I was so impressed that they were more concerned about their neighbors then … they were annoyed that they had to leave their party.”

One of the notable calls the company has responded to recently was a chimney fire in the hamlet of Fly Creek in April that morphed into a structure fire.

“It wound up getting in the ceiling of the second floor,” said Thayer. To put out the fire, the company had to run interior lines, he said.

Thayer said that the firefighters get an average of five to six calls a month. He also said that they respond not just to fires but to other incidents as well.

“Motor vehicle accidents, trees down, anything blocking lanes of traffic,” said Thayer.

Last year the company signed a shared services agreement with five other area fire companies, Cooperstown, Hartwick, Hartwick Seminary, Schuyler Lake and Richfield Springs. This means that the company gives and receives automatic mutual aid from these companies, which translates into all companies being called automatically whenever there is a structure fire.

“It boils down to respecting the other departments and how they operate,” said Thayer.

The company is also involved in other efforts, such as directing traffic and being in charge of EMS at Cider Run 5K and 10K, and putting up and maintaining flags in Fly Creek for holidays such as Memorial Day. Additionally, the company participates in five to six parades a year.

A crucial part of the company is its EMS squad, which is run by Rick Kelly.

“We do roughly 100 calls a year,” said Kelly.

All members of the EMS squad are members of the fire company too. The squad consists of eight EMTs, three certified first responders, and six to eight other first responders who assist with lifting and driving.

First responders are important in an aging community, Kelly said. 

“As the community is getting older, people are in need of a little more help,” said Kelly.

As for volunteering with the squad, Kelly said that once a member has joined the company, they can volunteer to work with the EMS squad, although he said that his members tend to start working as firefighters or fire police first.

“We're always looking for more,” said Kelly. “Anybody who's willing and able can come on over.”

Kelly also said that they are sometimes tight on daytime shifts.

Becoming an EMT requires 150 hours of training. The fire company pays for the training.

Before joining, a candidate must be interviewed by the interview committee, after which their membership is voted on by all members of the company, with a majority vote earning the candidate entrance. The primary requirement for a candidate is that they be in good standing with the community.

“We look for everybody,” said Kelly, saying that firefighters, EMS personnel and people doing office work are all helpful to the company.

“If you don't have any training we'd be more than happy to train you,” said Thayer.

Thayer said that a core philosophy of the department was to allow people to volunteer the time they can give.

“When people volunteer they want to come and help the community,” said Thayer.

More information about the Fly Creek Fire Company can be found by visiting its website, www.flycreekfire.com.