Updated: 12-09-2004 12:31:16 PM

Fire Corps Program Launched To Support Fire Service


HEATHER CASPI
Firehouse.Com News

The Department of Homeland Security launched a new program Thursday to support fire departments nationwide, both volunteer and career, by bolstering citizen participation in support activities.

The new "Fire Corps," according to its web site, will educate fire departments on how to implement a program that utilizes citizens to relieve the burden on front-line responders. It suggests involving citizens in non-emergency support activities such as administrative duties, public education, fundraising, canteen services, public relations and apparatus and facility maintenance.

Program officials acknowledge that many departments already have such programs in place, utilizing citizens known as administrative, associate, life, or auxiliary volunteers or members. They ask that these departments register their existing programs with Fire Corps so that more potential volunteers can find them, and other departments can learn from them.

"We want to have as many fire departments under the banner as possible," said program director Shawn P. Stokes. "But we also want to grow and create opportunities where they don't currently exist."

Stokes said the program will help the fire service in two important ways - through the actual help of the citizen advocates, and also by allowing the community to learn more about the fire department. "As citizens become involved, they learn and appreciate what the demands are on the fire service today and what we really do here," he said. "It's a double dip of helping the fire service."

As of Thursday only two fire departments were listed in the program's national database, but fire officials expect wide response following the official program launch, Stokes said. The program is getting the word out through the media and through their partners: the National Volunteer Fire Council, the International Association of Fire Chiefs' Volunteer Combination Officers Section, the International Association of Fire Fighters and the White House's USA Freedom Corps Office.

Stokes said he also plans to publicize the program on the fire expo circuit, and after studying existing programs, to present a symposium on successful program practices.

He said the idea for the program goes back about two years and has been in action for about two months.

He said he got involved through his combination of professional and fire service experience, after working on program management at the Department of Transportation. Stokes is a second-generation member of the fire service, holds two degrees in aviation business and operations, and is a medic and the President of the Dunn Loring Volunteer Fire and Rescue Department in Fairfax County, Virginia.

Fire Corps will operate under Citizen Corps, which has also organized Neighborhood Watch, Medical Reserve Corps, Community Emergency Response Teams and Volunteers in Police Service. Citizen Corps is itself a component of the White House's USA Freedom Corps, an umbrella for new and previously existing federal service organizations.

Additional information is available at www.firecorps.org
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