Gas Industry Leads to Need for Volunteers

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The call is going out for more volunteers at fire companies in Lycoming County.

The situation has gone from bad to worse, according to officials who said more firefighters and EMTs are being hired to work more demanding jobs in the natural gas industry.

The Woodward Township Volunteer Fire Company has spelled it out on the sign in front of its station near Williamsport: "Firefighters and EMT's Needed."

These days, Chief Rick Whalen said, there are fewer volunteers to respond to emergencies because people just do not have the time to spare like they once did, time for everything from emergency calls to fund raising efforts.

"It's not dire yet, I'm afraid of what the future may hold. Whether it be five or 10 years down the road, I have no clue," said Chief Whalen.

For instance, a crew from Woodward Township would have responded to a house fire in Williamsport last week. However, Chief Whalen said his members were at work and could not make it to the station in time.

Recently, gas companies have been moving into the area, hiring people for all sorts of jobs.  Fire company officials said that has put a further strain on their volunteer forces, making it difficult to respond to calls with enough volunteers.

"It all relates to the gas industry. I have four of them who work for gas-related industry or affiliates. They just don't have the time anymore," added Chief Whalen.

Things are not as bleak for fire companies in Jersey Shore, however officials have taken notice of the gas industry's appeal.

"You gotta look out for yourself too. We're a public service, try to be here for the community," said Deputy Fire Chief Ethan Goodbrod of Citizen's Hose Company. "If someone's going to offer a better living then what are you going to do?"