Prince Spells had been traveling outside the country as an artist and freelance photographer for ten years before the COVID-19 pandemic brought him back to his hometown. Back in Elkins Park, Spells found his second home in January of 2022 at LaMott Fire Company.
“When I got home, I felt like I wanted to connect more with the community, and volunteering gave me that opportunity,” said Spells.
Another volunteer looking to give back is Dan Schaefer, a former police officer for more than 20 years and a recent volunteer at Perkiomen Township Fire Company. He graduated from the Montgomery County Fire Academy with his Firefighter I Certificate in November of this year.
“The most satisfying aspect of firefighting is serving my local community. Two days ago, I responded to a house fire three houses down,” said Schaefer, “We genuinely are neighbors helping neighbors.”
Expanding skill set
For those hesitant to volunteer because they have no experience, your local fire company will provide the proper gear and train you for free. To enter a burning building and begin interior firefighting, volunteers must receive their Firefighter I Certificate first.
“I now feel comfortable handling a life-or-death situation. I learned a lot from the academy,” said Spells.
Todd Krock, another 2022 graduate from the Montgomery County Fire Academy, had always wanted to be a firefighter and recently joined Ringing Hill Fire Company in Lower Pottsgrove.
“You don’t need to know anything to get started. There’s room for anybody in the service, and in the end, you’ll be a professional,” said Krock.
The skills firefighters learn at the academy will stay with them throughout their lives. These unique and transferable skills are also beneficial in the workforce.
“Volunteering as a firefighter is a great addition to your resume. It makes you stand out and shows you are committed,” said Krock.
Volunteers can take any class at the academy that piques their interest. The academy offers fire police training, hazardous materials, structural collapse and more, paid for by their local Montgomery County Fire Company.
“The fire company provides access to specialized training such as VRT, Vehicle Rescue Training, so I can protect my family and my neighborhood better,” said Douglas Ross of Spring Mill Fire Company.
Ross joined Spring Mill Fire Company in August of 2022 and is preparing to take classes for his Firefighter I Certification in 2023. Although he can’t help with interior firefighting yet, he has started exterior training by grabbing tools and equipment, dragging hoses and setting up ladders.
“Not only is volunteering a service to your community, but it’s a service to yourself,” said Ross.
For individuals looking for other ways to volunteer, Montgomery County’s 89 fire companies offer additional opportunities such as administrative members, junior firefighters, fire police and EMTs. Visit www.MontcoFirefighters.org and fill out a volunteer inquiry form to change your life and save lives in 2023. The Montgomery County Fire Chiefs Association is actively seeking volunteers to help around the firehouse, respond to a variety of calls, or provide general assistance to first responders. A new website has been created to connect Montgomery County residents with their closest fire companies by visiting www.Montcofirefighters.org.