When a man becomes a fireman, his greatest act of bravery has been accomplished.
What he does after that is all in the line of work.
— NYFD Chief Edward Croker (1863-1951)
Imagine a world without firefighters. Not a happy thought, is it? But as essential as their services are to every community, it’s increasingly difficult for volunteer fire departments, like that in New Paltz, to acquire new members. So the Firemen’s Association of the State of New York (FASNY) came up with a plan a few years back to boost volunteer membership. Every April on the same weekend, hundreds of individual firehouses throughout the state hold RecruitNY events in which volunteer emergency service providers open their doors to the public for a day of demonstrations and activities. The idea is to help the public better understand what emergency responders do and to encourage new recruits to join the department.
The New Paltz Fire Department will hold a RecruitNY event on Saturday, April 23 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at NPFD Station #1 at 25 Plattekill Avenue. Live music and refreshments will accompany the opportunity to learn some useful information as well as to tour the firehouse and check out the equipment.
New Paltz Rescue Squad will be on hand to teach and certify community members in hands-only CPR and automated external defibrillator (AED) awareness as a part of their “1,000 Hands Across New Paltz” campaign to make the community a safer place. New Paltz Fire Department personnel will educate the public on how smoke and carbon monoxide detectors work and how best to utilize them. There will also be a fire extinguisher simulator for people to learn how to properly extinguish a fire and a chance to try on some fire turnout gear and use an actual fire hose. And all of the emergency responders will come together for a live demonstration of a mock personal injury automobile accident, to show the public all of the planning and skills it takes to respond to a serious car accident.
This will be the department’s second time participating in RecruitNY. Last year the event brought in several new members, says First Assistant Chief Dylan Babcock, and they’re hoping this year’s event will do even more to boost their ranks. Visitors will have the opportunity to speak with firefighters about their possible interest in signing up and becoming involved. And it’s worth noting that there are positions within the department that don’t involve actual firefighting but are crucial to carrying out their mission; people who serve by volunteering to drive the trucks, or get water to firefighters to keep them hydrated.
It takes a special individual to volunteer as a firefighter. They go into it knowing they could be hurt, or worse. They routinely interrupt their daily lives or leave a warm bed and their families in the middle of the night to help our families. And all unpaid. Their reasons for doing the work and how they got into it vary, but what they have in common is the willingness to give their time and energy to help their neighbors and communities. Here is a snapshot of a few of the men who make up the New Paltz Fire Department.
Longtime ambition realized
Known around the firehouse as “Billy” or “Bubba,” First Lieutenant William Buboltz, 22, has been a volunteer firefighter for seven years. He dreamed of being a firefighter from the time he was a young boy, acting on that ambition as soon as he was old enough. His initial experience as a junior firefighter in Modena began before he even had a learner’s permit to drive (his mother had to drive him to the firehouse for drill nights and calls). After graduating from New Paltz High School in 2011, Buboltz transferred to the New Paltz Fire Department, where after two years as an interior firefighter he became a third lieutenant, moving up to first lieutenant in 2015.
His day job is with C2G Environmental Consultants in New Paltz, where he’s been employed as a field technician and driver for two years.
As a lifelong resident of New Paltz, Buboltz finds it satisfying to volunteer for the fire department, knowing he has a role in helping his neighbors. “I absolutely love the town and village,” he says, noting that he finds it a great place to have both country life and the activity in the town. In the past seven years, he’s taken a lot of training courses through the fire department, he says, and believes that it has taught him a lot about leadership as well as about firefighting. “I was always a hardworking individual,” Buboltz says, “and I enjoy helping people at any cost.”
Seasoned veteran continuing family tradition
Electronic technician Bob Krajicek, 60, first applied to become a firefighter in October of 1970. He’s lived in New Paltz all of his life except for a stint in the Air Force and when he was first married. “I joined the fire department to help the community,” he says. “My father was a member, John Taylor down the street was a member, and it was a time when people looked out for people.”
Firefighters acquire the training and skills to mitigate bad situations, he adds, “and it is sooooo satisfying when we can save a person’s home and belongings, or extricate them from a serious car accident. On the other hand, it is totally devastating when we get called too late and the fire has already engulfed the house, or the people have died in the car crash.” Krajicek says that his hope is that, “by helping others, my ‘life ticket’ has been validated.”
Finding a calling, making a difference
Firefighters and other emergency responders do what they do “out of the love that we have for our community and the people, places and things that are within it,” says Dylan Babcock, 24, first assistant chief in the New Paltz Fire Department. A resident of New Paltz for seven years, he’s been a volunteer with the department for six years and works as an Ulster County Highway Department equipment operator.
Babcock says that even as a child he was always one to step forward when others needed help; sometimes before he’d even help himself. Always involved in team sports — he came to New Paltz in 2010 for college and was on the baseball team at SUNY — Babcock says he was raised on the concept of working with others to achieve a common goal. The fire department had always sparked his interest, but a full schedule that felt like there was no time to even eat a proper dinner didn’t seem like it left enough room to pursue anything else.
Realizing, however, that school sports would eventually come to an end, he says he wanted to find something that he could take pride in for the rest of his life after sports. And every time he walked by the firehouse and saw the activities going on, his interest was again piqued.
“I decided I was going to apply, and soon after, I knew I had made the right decision. My first ride on the engine was filled with as much adrenaline as you would get on the first drop of a roller coaster… followed by the next ride and the next. But the thought of going to help someone in need and sometimes at the worst moments of their life was enough to make me want to get up at 1 a.m. or during a meal or even my favorite TV show. Making a difference in someone else’s life when they couldn’t feel more helpless is the most satisfying feeling anyone could ever experience.”
The downside to the work is dealing with things “we wish we never saw,” Babcock says. “But that comes with the job, and the hope that you’re making the situation better than it would have been is what keeps us going. I do it for the look of relief on someone’s face after we are able to provide any type of assistance to them.”
And while the fire department volunteers do receive a lot of appreciation from the community, there are also those times when someone is unhappy with their efforts. “Honestly, going home from a call where a member of the public was not happy with us does bother us and we never want it to be that way. We joined to assist those in need and only look to keep the pride, honor and brother-and-sisterhood of the New Paltz Fire Department ever present.”
Overall, he says, volunteering in the New Paltz Fire Department has brought him more enjoyment and satisfaction than any other team, organization or event he’s ever been a part of. “It almost becomes an addiction if it is truly your calling in life. I would say to anyone to give it a chance and you may just fall in love.”