WAYMART – Emergency responders play a vital role in our communities.
Fire companies are one of the first on scene and they work hard to make sure everyone involved is safe.
Wayne County is fortunate to have many fire companies and volunteers who are working to protect everyone in their communities.
Among them is the Waymart Volunteer Fire Company.
Company 75 was incorporated on Sept. 18, 1925. The current fire station, 254 Carbondale Road, was built in 1969.
There are 30 members on the roster with 19 active members on calls.
The company's primary coverage area includes Waymart Borough, Canaan Township, some of South Canaan Township and some of Clinton Township.
The Waymart Volunteer Fire Company has an engine, a brush truck and a tanker.
“It's a great group of guys,” said Chief Shawn Vinton.
Being a 100 percent volunteer organization, they need to find ways to pay for the day to day operations of being a fire company.
The Waymart Volunteer Fire Company holds several fundraisers each year including a turkey party, breakfasts throughout the summer, gun raffle, flower sales and a Christmas raffle.
“That's our complete operating budget, our fundraisers,” Vinton said. “That's where all the money for operating comes from.”
He said the fundraisers pay for the bills, cable, electric, fuel for the trucks and the insurance.
Vinton also said it's difficult to get a lot of money from fundraisers as well because other organizations are also looking for help.
“At some point, when the economy starts going lower, it's going to be harder and harder,” he said. “You have to create different ways to make it work.
“Every year we see if we can make something better, improve something and if we can do something different that isn't done all the time.”
He stated that the fundraisers that started to take off, like the gun raffle and the turkey party, the company tries to keep them consistent like when the event takes place.
Vinton said they also see where it's feasible to add in an extra event such as another breakfast.
The fire company also does a lot with the nursing homes, day cares, cub scouts and students at the Robert. D. Wilson Elementary School.
Making do with limited financing
Equipment has to be updated regularly and it's paid for through the fireman's relief.
“The relief money is granted through the state to the borough, who gives it to the fire company,” Vinton said. “That's the donation we get every year from the borough.”
In November of 2012 the fire company received a new engine through a federal grant worth $275,000 and they paid the rest.
Every year the Waymart Volunteer Fire Company applies for the state grant.
“We use that for debt reduction on the loan for the payoff of the engine and the tanker,” Vinton explained. “It varies from $12,000-$15,000 a year.”
“There's a lot of false information that we get tax money when we don't,” Vinton said. “The relief technically is like a tax, but it's through the insurance company.
“We have an ISO rating and right now Waymart Borough's ISO rating is a seven. That determines the tax bracket.
“Part of that falls back on the borough, part falls on the fire company. There are also other variables that go into it like the water company.
“For the stuff that we can do, it's a big part of the ISO rating, so the money that comes from them is through the insurances, which goes to the fireman's relief.”
Vinton added the fireman's relief is only allowed to purchase certain items such as equipment for trucks, personal protective gear and anything that's related to firefighter safety.
The last brand new vehicle the Waymart Volunteer Fire Company prior to 2012 was in 1968.
“Put it this way, the 2012 engine was $686,000 without equipment,” Vinton stated. “That's just the truck. That's the cab, body and pump. There's no equipment on it.
“You're looking at three quarters of a million dollars just for a truck.”
He added that a brand new truck costs, on average, a minimum of $300,000.
“With the federal money we had to match part of that, but in order to qualify for the grants you have to keep up with the training,” Vinton explained.
He added you have to have so many firefighters certified in various categories such as firefighter 1.
For someone to earn firefighter 1 certification, it costs around $1,000 a person between gear to pass inspection, the class and the books.
“The more you have certified, the better off you are getting grant money,” Vinton said. “Fifty percent of our membership is firefighter 1 certified.”
The company has 14 who are either firefighter 1 or firefighter 2 certified.
“We only look at active members [when counting certified] because some are social members only,” Vinton stated.
The social members help run the fundraisers, make coffee after calls and more. The company also recently re-started its ladies auxiliary.
“We watch every dime we spend in order to keep the doors open,” Vinton said. “We set up a normal operating budget every year. We factor in propane, PP&L, phone and cable and fuel costs.
“The biggest problem is every time you take the engine out at four miles to the gallon, you're looking at $175 in fuel each time.”
He added you also have to factor in maintenance of the vehicles.
“Our treasurer does a phenomenal job with it [the budget],” Vinton stated. “We have to watch every penny. If we start going over that budget, it wouldn't be good.
“The cold winters haven't been helping with the propane either.”
Equipment, training and maintenance are the biggest financial costs the fire company faces. With the cold snaps, more gets added to the operating budget for heat too.
Need of volunteers
Like many other fire companies, manpower and staffing for calls is one of the biggest obstacles Waymart faces.
“We try recruitment,” Vinton said. “It's tough.”
He said they held a recruitment drive at the Western Wayne High School with three other local departments last year, in order to reach all residents in the district, but it wasn't as successful as they would have hoped.
“It's basically family,” Vinton said. “Everybody here at some point had a family member that was doing it [being a firefighter]. Now it's a struggle to keep members.
“It's not just countywide, but it's happening all over the state. Everybody's putting more companies on their box alarms just to get the manpower.
“When you have a larger scale incident going on, you're going to see 17, 18 pieces of fire apparatus there. Despite the financial problems everybody's going to go. It's a never ending battle.”
Vinton added there are members in Waymart that are members in mutual aid departments as well.
“You can have the best equipment in the world, but if you have nobody around to run it, it doesn't help.
“It's a community within a community.”
Joining the company
Are you interested in joining the Waymart Volunteer Fire Company?
You can stop by the station to pick up an application. The meetings are the first Monday of the month and you can also stop by any time after 7 p.m. on Wednesdays.
“We appreciate every bit of support we have from the community and the neighboring communities,” Vinton said. “Without their support, we wouldn't be able to keep the doors open. Every truck we have has 'thank you for your support, 100 percent volunteer, community-funded.'
“Our rescue equipment was donated by the lions and the masons, so we have their emblems on our truck.”