About a mile away from the University, nestled next to Dependable Cleaners and Tiger Garage, lies the fire station. The building has a brick exterior, interrupted by three large garage doors and the words “Princeton Fire Department” sprawled across its outside. The fire department and the University are uniquely connected through the volunteer firefighter program, which recently celebrated its 10-year anniversary.
Director of the Department of Emergency and Safety Services for Princeton Bob Gregory was the University’s first fire marshal and was involved in the creation of the program, also known as the Princeton Fire Department Associate Member Program.
According to Deputy University Spokesperson Michael Hotchkiss, last year, volunteers responded to 185 fire calls.
When asked to describe the typical qualities of a volunteer firefighter, Gregory paused before saying, “It’s in people’s genes. They get the fire bug.”
Some newer volunteers go to probationary training before becoming full-fledged volunteers, while others join the force with more experience. However, all volunteers share some common characteristics.
“They are service-oriented. They like serving the community and helping people,” Gregory said.
While volunteers can be full-time students, most are University employees who have a scheduled duty day. The interlocking of the University with the fire department is an important factor in the flourishing of the program.
Gregory added that the fire department is grateful for the support of the University.
“The University and town like to work together for the betterment of the community. There’s great appreciation on both sides,” he said.
Such sentiments of unity and gratitude are echoed by town mayor Liz Lempert.
“The community is extremely grateful to the University for stepping up in this way and investing in the program,” Lempert said. “It’s a program that the University is rightfully proud of and the municipality is as well. I hope it continues to grow and flourish in the coming years.”
In an email to The Daily Princetonian, Hotchkiss expressed the University’s appreciation of its employees who participate in the program.
“Thanks to these volunteers, both campus and town benefit from improved emergency response times during the work day and an additional, fully staffed fire apparatus responding to calls,” Hotchkiss wrote.
In the 10 years of the program, the number of volunteers has grown and the program itself has evolved. Recently, the department has decided to transition into employing a combination of paid and volunteer firefighters. According to Lempert, the plan is to bring on six full-time, paid employees. The hiring process is in progress.