Grants Help Local Fire Departments With Equipment, Training

Rich Digirolamo Jr., first assistant chief with the Panama Fire Department; Kendrya Sheldon, Panama Fire Department president and EMS captain; Brian Willink, Clymer Fire Department EMS captain; and Ed Faulkner, Clymer Fire Department chief; review basic CPR training in 2016. Submitted photo

Editor’s Note: The Chautauqua Region Community Foundation is commemorating its 40th anniversary this year. Throughout the year, the foundation is highlighting 40 stories that are indicative of the impact foundation-funded programs and initiatives have had on the community. This week’s story was inspired by gifts to the Fund for the Region.

Throughout Chautauqua County, hundreds of men and women have answered the call to volunteer with their local fire department.

“It is a true commitment people make when they decide to volunteer,” said John Griffith, Chautauqua County director of emergency services.

Out of the 42 fire departments in the county, 39 are supported by volunteers serving in firefighting, emergency medical services and administrative positions.

In 2017, volunteer fire departments answered nearly 20,000 fire and emergency medical service calls in the county. Many calls require mutual aid, meaning volunteers from neighboring departments respond to a call offering equipment, medical expertise and support.

Firefighters from the Stanley Hose Company in Sherman battle a structure fire in 2015.

“Comradery and partnership is key to mutual aid, not just in one community, but anyone in need. It’s important that we can all work together,” Griffith said.

In recent years, grants from the Chautauqua Region Community Foundation have supported departments working together to purchase new equipment and offer necessary training for volunteers.

A 2016 grant from the Foundation allowed the Panama Volunteer Fire Company to purchase CPR mannequins and an AED trainer to offer mandatory EMT refresher courses right in Panama, instead of traveling to Jamestown or Mayville.

“We try to provide the highest level of care to our residents and the more we are able to train, the more we are able to do,” Kendrya Sheldon, Panama Volunteer Fire Company president and EMS captain said at the time.

For many rural departments, like Sherman, one of the biggest challenges is recruiting members to serve as EMT’s to respond to medical and trauma calls.

“An EMT class is three months long, two nights a week and several all day Saturday classes. It is difficult to find people who have the time and desire to become an EMT, but it is so critical,” said Joel Fisher, Stanley Hose Company Fire Department 2nd Assistant EMS and financial secretary.

Individuals over the age of 18 who are interested in volunteering, can contact their local department to obtain an application.

“There is a place for everybody in the community to be a part of our county’s fire service,” Griffith said. “It is an important piece of our community and I am constantly amazed by those who are so giving of their time to support their friends, family and neighbors in need.”

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For 40 years, the Chautauqua Region Community Foundation has worked together with its inspiring donors, selfless volunteers and grateful community organizations to share their stories for enriching the quality of life for all who live here.

A gift to the Foundation adds another chapter in our community’s unending story. Learn more at