OLD BETHPAGE - They are willing to risk their lives and leave their families at home. Volunteer firefighters play an essential role on Long Island, and as News 12's Rich Barrabi reports, answering the call requires a lot of training.
On a cool Thursday evening in Old Bethpage, a scorching fire has broken out. Within minutes, the Malverne Fire Department is on the scene. Moments later, they locate and attack the fire at its source. Black smoke continues to escape the building and lingers in the sky. But the fire has been extinguished. The work is done.
This fire, however, was staged. It was ignited by instructors at the Nassau County Fire Services Academy, so that the volunteer firefighters of the Malverne Fire Department could practice in real time, during a real fire. The youngest person in uniform there is 20-year-old Connor Wolf. He's a probationary firefighter, just a few months into his training. A kid from Malverne with a passion for fighting fires.
Malverne Assistant Fire Chief Mike Gildea says that training is designed to ensure that everyone who wants to fight fires, is truly up to the task.
While there is plenty of instruction around the firehouse, nothing beats the real thing. The hope too, is that it appeals to some younger volunteers. In an era when so many Long Islanders are hard pressed to find any free time for themselves, Gildea says volunteer fire departments across the Island are stepping up recruiting efforts.