TURBOTVILLE - It was a painstaking decision, but was considered to be the best solution to a manpower crisis facing volunteer fire services in upper-Northumberland, Montour and Union counties.
The Warrior Run Area Fire Department Cooperative executive board recently decided to permanently cancel the Turbotville Volunteer Fire Department Carnival, starting next year, in favor of merging its efforts into one carnival held in nearby Watsontown, according to Wayne Hawley, a spokesman for the cooperative.
"We didn't want to do it, but our members are stretched so thin we had to get rid of one," Hawley said of the plan to merge the events, holding one carnival in the nearby borough's community park.
The Warrior Run Area Fire Department has seen an annual call volume of between 350 to 400 calls, he said.
There are an estimated 25 to 30 active members who respond to and cover a wide area, including Turbotville, Dewart, Allenwood, Lewis and Delaware townships, Hawley said.
"We hated to make the decision that affects a time honored tradition, but we have to get more volunteers," he said. "The bottom line is we appreciate all of the support over the years from Turbotville borough officials and volunteers. We are looking forward to our combined efforts at the carnival next year. This decision was not done lightly but we didn't have a choice."
Each department holds a carnival in succession, with Sunday the day to tear down and clean up at Turbotville before the other carnival begins.
"We can understand why, especially with the volunteers holding back-to-back carnivals," Turbotville Council President Francis Betz said.
Betz acknowledged he's receiving calls from residents who are upset, but realizes the constraints placed on volunteer services that lack the help.
While the recent decision by the board of up to a dozen, two of each representing the municipalities served by the department, was not easily arrived at, it points toward a greater problem for volunteer emergency medical and fire services, Hawley said. "Over the years our memberships have dropped," he said. "We get less help each year and it's a struggle every year."
"We're not saying our decision for next year is against Turbotville," Hawley said.
In fact, a new fire station is going to be built on Route 44, between the borough and the borough of McEwensville, to better serve that region across Interstate 180.
"It should be under roof this winter," Hawley said. "We've also purchased new equipment that is housed at Watsontown for the Turbotville area," he said.
"Family comes first," Hawley said of families planning to attend parties and graduation ceremonies rather than go to a carnival.
Residents never need to worry, though. During the carnivals, the fire departments have prearranged firefighters set to leave at a moment's notice.
Hawley said volunteers are fewer and far between because they must take hours of training and classes.
Some of the volunteers are taking emergency medical technician classes and training that is about 180 hours of their time.
It requires a volunteer firefighter more than 200 hours of training to become a firefighters at level one, which means he or she is certified to be able to go into a burning building he said.
Hybrid vehicles require specialized training so when extrication of passengers is needed the volunteers know where to cut the metal on cars and trucks, he said.
Early June is a time when Warrior Run Area School District and other schools holding commencement.
"Family comes first," Hawley said, adding some people opt out of going to the carnival to attend parties or graduations.