Looking for a way to get more involved in the community? The Bethany Beach Volunteer Fire Company is always seeking new people who have a personal desire to serve in a challenging, meaningful way, and an upcoming open house will give the public an opportunity to explore what they can do to help.
“Fire companies in the area are staffed primarily by volunteers, who provide a critical service 365 days a year,” said Todd Hickman, deputy chief of the BBVFC.
On the frontlines, firefighters and emergency medical technicians respond to emergency calls, ride the trucks and ambulances, and attend monthly drills.
“The volunteer fire service can be a huge part of people’s lives, if you want to give something back, something that’s high-excitement, high-adrenaline,” said Hickman. “You’re involved in high-stress, high-intensity situations. And you really get to see the best of people when they’re put in [that circumstance].”
People who want to help but prefer behind-the-scenes work can become service members. They don’t ride the fire trucks, but they support BBVFC operations. For instance, Lt. Justin Cassell recalled a math whiz who served as department treasurer, with fire police work on the side.
“Obviously, it is a dedication to become a firefighter,” said Cassell.
Newcomers to emergency operations will receive official training, but BBVFC pays for all classes, which doubles as career training.
“Some of the classes that we do take are college-level, so in a way you are getting college credit,” said Cassell, who began as a volunteer and later earned EMT certification. He volunteers in Bethany when he’s not working at Roxana. “It’s an advancement. … I ended up doing it as career.”
Volunteerism can also bolster résumés for people looking to change careers.
“I think a lot of employers look at fire experience as a leadership builder,” said Hickman. “[Members get] a very advanced level of training, and they can take it as far as they want to, from basics to leadership.”
Individuals come from a variety of ages and backgrounds, from the 14-year-old junior member to 60-year-old retiree. Junior members may begin training at age 14, learning the basics until age 16, when they can enroll in fire school. Regular members take the juniors under their wing, like an internship, where they get hands-on experience from a safe vantage point.
“We recruit year-round, every day, for new members,” said Hickman. “This is just one opportunity for folks to come down, see the station and talk to members.”
New people in the fire company’s service area are being encouraged to join. The company can also accept part-time residents with prior emergency experience. Hickman recalled a traveling nurse who served BBVFC during a temporary stay in Lewes, after years as an assistant fire chief in Pennsylvania.
Successful recruits would also need to pass a background check and prove themselves trustworthy, dependable and honest.
“There a public-trust element to what we do,” said Hickman. “We go into their homes … because they’re experiencing a life crisis, and there’s a lot of trust that associated with that.”
“When I look back at my fire service, I think it’s enriched my life and allowed me to help, which is an opportunity most folks don’t get,” said Hickman, who has two children, a regular fulltime job and 17 years of fire/EMS service.
The Bethany Beach Volunteer Fire Company will host an open house Saturday, Jan. 26, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Visitors can ask questions and learn about a variety of jobs from the people who do them.
For more information, contact Justin Cassell at email@example.com, or call BBVFC at (302) 539-7700.