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JENKINTOWN — Along with firefighters, contributing members and junior members, the Jenkintown Fire Department is seeking volunteers to join the fire police.
“We have a great need for more fire police officers,” said Dennis Cline, captain of the fire police unit that is attached to the Pioneer Fire Company in Jenkintown. While they are called fire police, these officers are part of the Jenkintown Fire Department rather than the police department.
In addition to Cline, there are three first line and four second line fire police, but with various factors that come up in people’s lives, such as injuries and illnesses or being out of the area, more volunteers are needed to help cover the borough when sudden needs arise.
While fire police candidates undergo some of the same training as firefighters, such as CPR and first aid, they also take specialized classes through one of the fire academies, said Cline. These classes include a basic class in the fire police officer’s responsibilities, legal concepts, how to speak to members of the press who might come to the scene of a fire, and also how to respond to people who try to get into a fire location for various reasons, some legitimate, some not. They also take a PennDOT approved class in how to set up barriers and where to place traffic cones. All the necessary training and equipment are provided without charge to members.
The fire police officers, who are sworn in by the mayor, have the primary duty of ensuring the safety of firefighters going to and from a fire. They also direct traffic at the incident scene, provide security and crowd control. Fire police are sometimes asked to help at non-emergency services such as funerals, parades and other large events.
“It’s a way to give back to the community,” said Cline. “It’s, for lack of a better parallel, it’s like being in the service, in one way. You have this comraderie with the rest of the firefighters. Its’ like a society, a club. You’re giving back to the community and doing something of service. You also have the knowledge that if you need something, they’re there to help you in your time of need.”
Cline came to his volunteer position by chance. A real estate broker with an office in Jenkintown, one day he was sitting outside having his morning coffee and saw that a firetruck was going to need help traversing traffic at the corner of Leedom Street and West Avenue. He ran over and stopped traffic so the firetruck could get through the intersection. After Cline performed that service a few more times, Joe Connolly, who was then the Pioneer Fire Company deputy chief, suggested that Cline make it official and join so that he would be protected by insurance if he were to be injured. That was over 20 years ago. Jenkintown did not have any fire police at that time, so Cline restarted the unit.
And fire police officers, like the other Jenkintown Fire Department firefighters, belong to a tightknit organization where everyone has each other’s back, helping each other in whatever situation life throws at them.
“One of the reasons why you have such a tight group is everybody is committed to the same thing,” said Cline. “They’re committed to helping people. That’s what it’s about.”
For more information about becoming a fire police officer with the Jenkintown Fire Department go to: www.fightjenkintownfires.org