hours served, have a curfew, and can be suspended because of failing grades or disciplinary actions at school. Despite the restrictions, however, the value of the experience is evident when they become old enough to participate fully. It also establishes a hierarchy of knowledge that allows people to grow into their roles comfortably.
“The inexperienced guys know to ask for help and respect is gained over the years,” explains Ron. “The older guys eventually move on and all of a sudden you’re the older guy the new ones are looking to for help. Nobody can handle everything. We need each other.”
Because of the rural composition of the area that comprises the township, such as farms, wooded areas and lakes, volunteers see a wide range of emergencies. Motor vehicle accidents are unfortunately common on the long stretches of rural roadways and accidents with farming equipment are possible. Brush fires are always a concern, especially in the undeveloped areas of the Alden Mountain where ATVs and one’s feet are the only ways to the scene. In all of these cases, everyone on scene has a job to do, and temperament is key. Remaining calm and able to think on one’s feet is an important part of helping others.
“You need to be a good people person. You really need patience and be willing to listen and hear the whole story first before you react, but then be able to react quickly and handle the pressure because people are counting on you,” notes Ron.
In addition to house and barn fires, motor vehicle accidents and water rescues, the company does have the occasional emergency that is out of the ordinary. They’ve rescued a child who had her knee stuck in the crux of a tree, a dog who had fallen through ice in the middle of a pond, and of course, a cat stuck 60 feet up in the branch of an old Oak. The cat’s owner was so inspired with the rescue that he joined the squad after the incident.
“Some procedures are not as straight forward as you might think. You just have to take your time and think before you act. Sometimes you need a little ingenuity. It is always a process –nobody runs a scene perfectly every time,” notes Ron.
A core part of that process is training and the company’s certification depends on it. There is nothing more useless, and more dangerous, than a volunteer who does not know how to operate their own company’s equipment. Slocum Fire Co. hosts weekly in-house training on their tools, equipment and procedures for fundamental knowledge of pumps, airpacks, ladders, hoses, maps and protocol, vehicle stabilization and extrication, and hosts training for other companies monthly through Bucks County Community College. In 2013 alone, Slocum hosted 24 classes such as Vehicle and Water Rescue Operations, Life Flight Ground Safety, Electrical Emergencies and Arson Detection. Members participated in several classes hosted at other departments as well, such as Scene Preservation, Ropes & Knots, Vehicle Fires and Pipeline Safety. Members have acquired State and professional board certifications as well for necessary skills such as Hazardous Materials Operations and basic Fire Fighting.
“Having more training brings the members closer as a core unit.” says Second Assistant Chief, Ron Burd Jr. “It garners respect among other companies and gives us all a chance to get to know each other’s strengths and weaknesses.”
Establishing such camaraderie isn’t limited to training. Volunteers socialize with each other at parades and other fundraisers throughout the year and that makes it easier to meld as one team when assisting at a fire or rescue scene. Unfortunately, those opportunities have become fewer over recent years as some companies have been impacted by regionalization or declining volunteerism.
Although Mountaintop Mutual Aid remains intact with the companies of Fairview, Wright, Slocum, Dorrance, Hollenback, Pond Hill and Nuangola, there has been much chatter recently over the decertification of the Rice Twp. Fire Co., the mutual agreement between Wright and Dorrance townships, and what that means for volunteer companies like Slocum. While Burd does not think that there will be any immediate implications for the citizens of the township, the general trend is disturbing.
and attendance of annual fundraising events, which is responsible for over half of the company’s income. The annual fireman’s bazaar, fireman’s breakfast, mud bog, hoagie sale, fish fry, turkey shoot, and the current soup sale are vital for the purchase and maintenance of equipment and tools, tuition costs for training and the everyday overhead of insurance, fuel, heat and electricity. Without community awareness of the cost of maintaining -and consequences of losing -the local fire company, many regional squads have fallen out of use.
“People in our own community need to realize they can lose their company,” remarks Ron. “Our community is one of the best in the area as far as support for their local volunteers. We have a really good relationship with our residents. We help cover local sporting events and give presentations at the elementary schools. Most importantly, we have an excellent working relationship with our Township Supervisors.”
All of Slocum’s supervisors have been involved with the fire company in once capacity or another, so they know and understand the time and training involved and see how their responsibilities of the fire company have increased over the years.
“They are there for us and we are there for them,” emphasizes Ron.
The Slocum Township Volunteer Fire Company is always looking for new members, no matter what experience, skill or involvement level. The company will provide all training and will provide the necessary gear once a probationary period has been completed. They are also interested in archival photos or newspaper articles residents may have about the company to maintain a complete history of the organization. If anybody has these items or is interested in volunteering, donating or purchasing a quart of soup from their soup sale, they can call the firehall at 868-6255 or contact any member.