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W.Va. fire company opens doors for volunteers

August 25, 2005|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. - The Shepherdstown Fire Department has come up with a novel idea of attracting volunteers: Give them a free home.

Volunteer fire departments have experienced difficulty attracting new members, causing county officials to consider a paid fire department in the county.

The Shepherdstown Fire Department has come up with its own way to attract volunteers.

Fire department officials have constructed a living area in the second floor of their station along W.Va. 45 and will offer the facilities to people free in exchange for those members agreeing to respond to calls and perform fundraising, fire chief Ross Morgan said.

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Each of the five rooms has all the normal accommodations for two people, Morgan said.

The living arrangement is geared mostly toward Shepherd University students who have been active in volunteering at the fire department over the years, Morgan said.

Morgan said he thinks the program will be attractive for college students since it will be a way for them to have free living accommodations while attending school.

It has become more difficult for volunteer fire departments to attract volunteers because people are tied up more with daily jobs than they used to be, Morgan said.

"The daytime is the worst," said Morgan, adding that his department has not been immune from the problem even though it has about 50 active members.

The fire department spent $150,000 to build the living areas and all the furniture was donated by local residents, Morgan said.

Eight people have already agreed to live at the fire department and fire officials notified the community of the program by word-of-mouth and through the department's Web site, Morgan said.

People who participate must have some previous training in firefighting or emergency medical services, Morgan said.

Volunteers may live in the apartments for up to two years, at which time their service will be re-evaluated if they want to continue to serve, Morgan said.

A ribbon-cutting ceremony at the facility will be Saturday at 9 a.m., Morgan said.

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