Firefighters inspiring others to answer the call to serve

Local News

ALTOONA, Pa. (WTAJ) –Throughout the month of October, fire departments are going to schools and neighborhoods to remind people what they can do to prevent fires. But what happens when there aren’t enough firefighters responding to an emergency?

The City of Altoona Fire Department said they’ve only received 15 applicants for new hires, a number they said is less than a third of where it usually is. Now, firefighters hope sharing their experience will inspire others to answer the call.

The deadline for new applicants for the fire department is next Wednesday, October 16. In recent years, the department has had 50 or more people apply, a stark difference from the 15 applications the department currently has.

Many of the fire fighters today said although the job is physically and mentally demanding, helping others is worth it.

Andrew Gressler joined the department in May 2019.

“This is honestly the first job I can honestly say I love. I couldn’t find anything else to do than this. It’s just an amazing job overall,” he said.

After five and a half years as a firefighter, Brandon McElhinny said he wished he applied sooner than he did.

“It’s just a great opportunity to be involved and active in the community that we live in,” he said. “I missed the first test deadline, kicked myself because I could’ve been here a little bit longer then, but the second test, I made sure I was there, ready, prepared for it, as much as I could be.”

Although the physical test is grueling, completing seven stations in seven minutes, both fire fighters agree: anyone who’s interested should give it a shot.

“It’s a fantastic opportunity and it’s one you should not pass up on, I believe. Just take it to get on the list, you know, time comes around. I highly recommend considering it,” Gressler said.

The application deadline is October 16 at noon. All of the paperwork and the fee have to be brought in to the Human Resources Office at City Hall. The tests will be at the end of the month on October 26 and 27.

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