Low numbers prompt Liberty, Rescue to explore jointure
SHAMOKIN - Declining membership has resulted in an explorative jointure of the Liberty and Rescue fire companies.
Members of Liberty began operating out of the Rescue on Sept. 1, moving their vehicles and equipment three blocks south on Liberty Street and into the Rescue.
No one will say if the move is permanent.
City Councilman R. Craig Rhoades, director of public safety and a member of Liberty, has described the relationship as being on a "trial basis."
Scott Roughton, president of the Rescue, says it's a "possibility" that the jointure could become permanent.
"We want to make sure everybody can work together the right way," Roughton said.
There are approximately 80 members on the Liberty's rolls, Rhoades said, and 15 to 20 are active. Roughton didn't have access to the Rescue's rolls.
Roughton said it can be difficult to get a crew to the scene of a fire during the daytime. People have jobs, and that's part of the reason new members can be hard to come by, too.
"The amount of training and demand in order to fight a fire is so high, the average person who works for a living doesn't have that time to put in to do the training. They end up not being involved," he said.
At least for now, Roughton said Liberty members will man their company's apparatus and Rescue members will man their own. There will be scenarios, though, where he envisions them sharing equipment.
Rhoades was cautious in speaking about the move. He wanted to avoid using the words "merger" and "consolidation." Those words make it seem like someone is losing something, he said.
He understands some volunteer firefighters, in considering mergers, may struggle with perhaps losing the individuality that comes with belonging to one of the six fire companies that cover the city's one square mile.
"Everybody has their own company pride. That's not being taken away from the Liberty by any means. They're not becoming the Rescue. They're still the Liberty," Roughton said.
Rhoades said the city has more than enough apparatus and equipment to serve the city; membership is the issue. There have been meetings regarding mergers with members of all city stations. Efforts to take it beyond discussions are "stagnant," Rhoades said.
Both Rhoades and Roughton agreed that a lack of manpower, especially during daytime hours, has put a crunch on volunteer stations citywide.
"I think that all of the active members realize that this is something that has to happen," Rhoades said about active Shamokin Fire Bureau members. "We're all in the same situation with membership."
"I think the companies in time will basically become one. I think the whole community should be looking in that direction," Rhoades said.