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Fire dept. may lower age limits

Thursday, October 04, 2012 - Updated: 8:42 AM

By JOSHUA THOMAS

C-S-E Editor

CANAJOHARIE — Canajoharie Volunteer Fire Department Chief Frank Nestle said during Tues-day’s Village Board of Canajoharie meeting that the department is considering taking necessary steps to lower the membership age requirement from 18 to 16.

Lowering the age requirement would hopefully bolster the department’s flagging membership, said Nestle, who noted that he brought the idea up to the membership during their recent monthly meeting.

“The membership was in approval of it,” he said.

The Canajoharie Volunteer Fire Department has had an Explorer program for “close to 20 years,” said Nestle, explaining of that program’s membership, “it’s pretty much faded.” He said the department hasn’t been able to meet their required quota of five Explorers for the past two years. He also explained that the Explorer program, which accepts students age 14 and up, asks strict requirements of advisors, who must take monthly training (that takes numerous hours each time), and travel long distances for twice-yearly table-top drills.

If the department does begin to accept 16 year olds, the new members would benefit, as they’d be able to take state training and receive certificates, which Nestle said, “they can use here or further on down the road.”

Explorers are not able to participate in state training.

Over-16 members would also have access to grant opportunities. The New York State Fire Chief’s Association provides funding to department members that attend community college, and return home each summer with the goal of continued participation. If the student scores a 4.0, they have their quarterly tuition paid in full, and students earning scores just below that still have the opportunity to reap significant grant rewards.

“Hopefully this will entice these younger kids to get involved, and get our membership up to where it used to be 15 years ago,” said Nestle, explaining that the department currently has “about 42” members, 22 being active members.

Trustee Ronald Dievendorf wondered how many over-16 members Nestle anticipates, and Nestle stated that just five or six would be a benefit to the department.

Nestle said that the town of Mohawk, the nearest department that has instituted the over-16 membership policy, will provide him with their list of rules, which, Nestle said might follow similar guidelines as the Explorer program. In that program, students must keep their grades up, a parental signature is required, and Explorers aren’t allowed to be involved in department activities past 10 p.m. on school nights.

Nestle also stated that he’s contacted Canajoharie Central School Superintendent Deborah Grimshaw with information about the potential program, noting that he received a positive response. He said he hopes that if the plan is instituted, he’d be able to promote it in the local school district, to get kids involved while they’re “young, gung-ho and ready to go.”

The board, minus Mayor Francis Avery, who was absent, issued approval for Nestle to research the plan further.

     

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