CARLISLE, Pa. (WHTM) — The annual Carlisle Fire and Rescue Services Carnival opened Tuesday.
The event, which lasts through Saturday at the fire station at 177 Carlisle Spring Road, features food, games and amusement rides.
Fire officials say the carnival is their largest fundraiser of the year and helps to fund the purchase of apparatus, equipment, and other needs.
Additionally, the event is a chance for the department to interact with the community and recruit new members.
“We just started here in the last two months talking about starting another recruitment program,” said Randy Uhrich, CFRS President. “In the past, we’ve been able to recruit some new members.”
Urich says while the Carlisle Borough Fire Department, which consists of his company and the Union Fire Company, has seven paid career firefighters and several paid part-time firefighters on staff, they still rely heavily on dozens of volunteers. Recruitment and retention of those men and women have been in a downward spiral for decades.
According to the Pennsylvania State Fire Commissioner’s Office, Pennsylvania had an estimated 300,000 volunteer firefighters in 1970, which dwindled to around 70,000 by 1990. Currently, estimates place the total number of volunteer firefighters in the state at 50,000 or less.
“It’s no different in Carlisle than it is with other fire departments,” Uhrich added. “Time is the biggest thing. More commitments with the family, jobs, the economy. Of course, there is all of the training required to become a volunteer firefighter. We’ve had some join, only to realize it was more time than they felt they could handle.”
While thousands of visitors to the carnival over the next several nights gather inside the truck bay area of the station to buy food, including hot sausages, hamburgers, chicken corn soup and ham and bean soup, they’ll also see a table offering information on joining the fire company.
“We have that set up. People can talk to us,” Uhrich said. “It’s a point we want to make that we’re always looking for people to help out. Whether it’s fighting fires or the administrative duties. They see us here at the carnival making a difference in Carlisle, and we welcome them to join us.”
Information on becoming a volunteer with the Carlisle Fire Department can be found here.