Events at three Gloucester Township fire company’s encourage conversation between residents, emergency responders
By MATTHEW SHINKLE – September 27, 2019
In today’s fast-paced world, it can often be forgotten how important it is to connect with others in the community. Residents of Gloucester Township have their own charities, nonprofits, organizations and others they support through either financial or volunteer means.
However, the need for volunteer firefighters continues to be an ever-growing need for multiple Gloucester Township fire departments, as well as fire departments across the state and across the nation.
From Oct. 6 to Oct. 12, three fire departments in Gloucester Township will celebrate National Fire Prevention Week to better connect with residents, while also opening up the conversation about the need for volunteers of all capacities.
During the week, the Chews Landing, Erial and Glendora fire companies will be hosting open houses and/or events at different locations in their respective parts of town.
The Erial Fire Company will be hosting its annual Fire Prevention Week kickoff event Thursday, Oct. 3 from 7 to 9 p.m. in the Gloucester Township Lowe’s located at 485 Cross Keys Road in Sicklerville. The event will feature food, several fire trucks, display tables, a fire safety trailer for participants to walk through and more.
Chief Michael Brezee says the event allows for productive learning experiences for children, both in and out of schools, throughout the week.
“The kids have a good time seeing the trucks, seeing equipment and meeting and talking to the firemen,” said Brezee. “But we also get into the schools [throughout the weeks around Fire Prevention Week], which is where to do a lot of teachings.”
The event for the Erial Fire Company grew so large over the years that it was forced to move from its fire house to the parking lot to better accommodate resident turnout.
Most important for events like these, however, is the desire to generate additional volunteer firefighters from around the township for the different fire companies in need. As Brezee can relate, as he first joined a fire company after mulling the decision for six months beforehand, conversation with current firefighters to understand what is needed or required can help make potential volunteers bridge the gap of uncertainty to assist their community.
“I wanted to join but I didn’t know what was involved,” said Brezee. “But sometimes what’s really needed is a conversation with an actual fireman to see how it works, what is needed and more … we often need to have a conversation to actually get them in the door so that they understand what they would be doing.”
The Chews Landing and Glendora fire companies will be hosting their open houses, which are more traditional for Fire Prevention Week, on Monday, Oct. 7 and Tuesday, Oct. 8, respectively, from 7 to 9 p.m. each night.
Rescue Captain and Fire Company President Jay Johnson for the Chews Landing Fire Company says he’s looking forward to having the opportunity to once again teach different education pieces of information that can help keep the community safe.
“The importance of Fire Prevention Week is to spread awareness about being cautious of fire in your house, in various predicaments,” said Johnson. “That includes how to get out of your house if there’s a fire, safe cooking methods, the importance of smoke detectors and more.”
Johnson also said that, typically, the conversation is instilled in students and young adults through various school and educational programs in communities; however, teaching adults at such events is equally, if not more, important.
Included at the Chews Landing Fire Company open house will be a smoke house for residents to enter where firefighters will be able to interact with those inside to help show what to do during different situations.
Fire Chief Michal Riccadelli of Glendora Fire Company says the open house for his company will feature demonstrations, a 40-foot inflatable obstacle course, recruitment tent and more for residents to explore and visit. Through the recruitment tent, Riccadelli hopes that residents investigate the numerous ways that they can help volunteer at their local fire company.
“We’re, personally, low on volunteers, like majority of fire departments,” said Riccadelli. “That’s why things like this are critical. This is our best opportunity to get out to residents. You don’t have to be here all the time to be a volunteer … but they are needed.”
For more information, residents can visit www.FirefightersofGloucesterTwp.org to learn about the various fire companies and how they can assist them.