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Smithsburg fire chief recruiting high school students

March 01, 2011|By DAVE McMILLION | davem@herald-mail.com
  • David Johnson, a senior at Smithsburg High School, left, was named Rookie of the Year during the Feb. 12 awards banquet at South Mountain Rod and Gun Club. Fire Chief Chris Rohrer, right, is focusing on attracting high school students to the company.
Submitted photo

SMITHSBURG — Some area fire departments might have trouble getting volunteers, but that's not an issue at Smithsburg Community Volunteer Fire Co.

An average of nearly 11 firefighters responded to the department's calls in 2010, which Fire Chief Chris Rohrer said is an impressive number.

One of the ways the fire department has been able to boost its personnel is by focusing on attracting high school students, Rohrer said.

But, he said, there are challenges in attracting young people to firefighting, mainly when it comes to convincing them to work for free.

Many youths are not quite at the point in their lives where they are interested in doing something to help their community, Rohrer said. But there are ways to make firefighting attractive to them, he said.

Some youths see firefighting as a way to be "cool," and Rohrer said he tries to sweeten the deal as much as he can, like providing fire department shirts to high school members and taking them to their classes.

To help attract young members, Rohrer said the fire department developed fliers that can be distributed to youths.

One of the fire department members who has worked to attract young members to the company is David Johnson, a senior at Smithsburg High School.

Johnson was named 2010 Rookie of the Year during the Feb. 12 awards banquet at South Mountain Rod and Gun Club.

Johnson said he started at the department about two years ago, following in the footsteps his brother, Charles Johnson, who is deputy chief of the department.

"It seemed like a good way to help people," said Johnson, who has convinced three or four students from Smithsburg High School to join the fire department.

Johnson started responding to fires after undergoing regular fire training and hazardous materials training.

Johnson said he is receiving fire training through Washington County Technical High School and is considering pursuing a fire science degree in college.

Also honored at the recent awards banquet were Kenny Smith, 2010 Firefighter of the Year; Danny Gibson, 2010 Line Officer of the Year; and Norman Potter, 2010 Training Award.

The Smithsburg Volunteer Fire Co. responded to 426 calls in 2010, up from the 406 calls the previous year, Rohrer said.

 The department covers 38 square miles and serves about 10,000 residents, Rohrer said.

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