MIDDLETOWN, Pa. (WHTM) – On the same day that a package of bills was introduced at the state Capitol to help Pennsylvania’s fire and EMS workers, one Midstate community is applauding the decision.
The Middletown Fire Department is 100% volunteer, so for about two years now, they’ve been offering a live-in program for young firefighters.
The young firefighters live, eat, and sleep at the station full time. It’s all about attracting quality workers and giving them a reason to stick around.
It may sound easy, living rent-free, but these live-in firefighters earn their keep.
“The trade-off then is they’re here five out of the seven days a week. They respond to a majority of the calls,” Middletown Fire Chief Kenny Whitebread said.
Whitebread said his department relies heavily on its live-in staff. They must be full- or part-time students or full- or part-time workers to qualify.
“A majority of them, once they move out, they stay in the area and they still stay active with the fire department here,” Whitebread said.
Five live-ins were out the door in just seconds over the weekend for a fire in Palmyra.
“We’ve had the rig on the street in 30 some seconds,” said Kody Krupilis, 24, who has been at the firehouse for about a year. “It’s like a family atmosphere. We’re all brothers. We cook dinner together most of the time. It’s definitely nice for the college students because then they don’t have to pay for housing or anything like that, so it’s a way to get out on your own for kids that are coming out of high school.”
The live-ins regularly train on and maintain equipment, help with the trucks and have scheduled training each week.
It’s a one-stop-shop of sorts for those with a passion for helping others.
“I love helping people, it’s my purpose in life,” said Storm Fickes, 21.
He believes living on-site makes all the difference.
“You got a minute and thirty seconds, to two minutes — to finally get out the door compared to five, six minutes for home responders to get here, get their gear on and get out the door,” he said, highlighting the lifesaving advantage of departments with live-in volunteers.
Right now, Middletown has two live-in spots open. You can contact the department directly to apply.