Senior Josh Edery heads to the Branchville Volunteer Fire Company on Thursday evenings and doesn’t return home until the next morning.
As a certified EMT and firefighter, he might be fast asleep in a station bunk bed when the alarm goes off for him to hop on a fire engine or ambulance.
Edery, a government and politics major, is not only saving lives but contributing to an organization that desperately needs him.
Branchville frequently goes out of service at 4 a.m. and into the day due to understaffing, the company’s fire chief Richard Leizear said. It has relied exclusively upon volunteer service since its career staff was eliminated in 2013 and is currently seeking to have it reinstated.
The College Park City Council approved a letter to Prince George’s County Fire Chief Marc S. Bashoor at their regular meeting on Oct. 25 requesting that he supply Branchville with weekday, daytime career staffing. Leizear testified before the council at a worksession the week prior.
“Anything we can do to support you and your efforts, I think we would be more than happy to do,” District 4 Council Member Dustyn Kujawa told him.
While students like Edery help keep the station running, their time with the company tends to be short since they graduate and often move elsewhere, Leizear said at the worksession.
“We lost nine people just this year for school, between switching colleges, pre-med schools and all that,” he said.
The company has to constantly recruit, Edery said. If there are not three volunteers at any given time, it has to close.
Edery began volunteering during his sophomore year because he had enjoyed public service as an ocean lifeguard and wanted to continue to dedicate his time to helping others.
“I went down to Branchville, and I fell in love with it,” he said. “I like the atmosphere. I like the people there.”
The community he has found at the station feels like a family, Edery said.
“A lot of times we see things that the public doesn’t see on a daily basis that are pretty gruesome or can really affect with you emotionally,” he said. “We all go through that together and we help each other through those kinds of situations, so we share a special bond in that respect.”
Though he is from southeastern Virginia, he tries to stay close enough during winter break to continue volunteering at Branchville.
“Most of the other volunteers at the station share the same frustration of trying to keep the station in service all the time,” Edery said. “We already give a lot of our own time, and it gets harder and harder trying to find more free time to give.”
Featured Photo Credit: Josh Edery has volunteered with Brancheville for two years now. (Heather Kim/Bloc Photographer)
Teri West is a junior journalism major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.