Orange County NY

Port Jervis Family Keeps Volunteer Firefighting Going

BY Cara Ding TIMESeptember 18, 2022 PRINT

Four years ago, when 16-year-old Briana Moore became a junior volunteer firefighter, her decision shocked her father, David Moore Jr.

Moore Jr. had followed in his grandfather and father’s footsteps to become a volunteer firefighter at 16. His then-14-year-old teenage son, David Moore, was well on track to follow in Moore Jr.’s footsteps in due time.

Epoch Times Photo
A picture of the patriarch of the four-generation firefighter family, David D. Moore Sr., hangs on the wall of Neversink Engine Company in Port Jervis, N.Y., on September 9, 2022. (Cara Ding/The Epoch Times)

But as to his daughter, Moore Jr. just never thought a girl would want to take on the dirty, heavy job that could cost her life yet doesn’t pay a dime.

It’s also a harder time to be a volunteer firefighter in New York than ever. Training hours have almost doubled since Moore Jr. joined, and one would be lucky to find an employer that is open to your leaving post for fire calls.

“I’ve watched my one grandfather do it ever since I was a kid. I watched my other grandfather do it, I watched my dad do it, and I watched my uncle do it. I said, ‘They could do it for free. Why can’t I?” Briana Moore told The Epoch Times.

Two years later, Moore Jr.’s son also became a junior firefighter at 16.

Epoch Times Photo
Briana and David Moore (R) dress themselves up in firefighter gear at Neversink Engine Company in Port Jervis, N.Y., on Sept. 9, 2022. (Cara Ding/The Epoch Times)

The two are the rare young volunteer firefighters at Neversink Engine Company, one of five engine companies in Port Jervis, a small city on the eastern bank of the Delaware River in New York.

The city relies on an all-volunteer firefighter system, which struggles to draw in new blood to sustain its lifeline, according to the Moore family.

Three Generations, One Firehouse

Moore Jr.’s father, 70-year-old David Moore Sr., is the chief engine driver and the most productive member at Neversink Engine.

He and another retiree take care of fire calls during the day when younger volunteers work; after five o’clock in the afternoon, they alternate.

Epoch Times Photo
David Moore Sr. sits in the fire engine at Neversink Engine Company in Port Jervis, N.Y., on Sept. 9, 2022. (Cara Ding/The Epoch Times)

This year, up until the end of August, Moore Sr. responded to 107 calls, the highest among 15 or so active volunteers at the company.

His son, Moore Jr., the captain of Neversink Engine, came second at 93 calls. His grandson, 18-year-old David Moore, is ranked third at 82 calls. His granddaughter, 20-year-old Briana Moore, responded to the sixth most calls, at 52.

Both Moore Jr. and Briana Moore have full-time jobs at a glass manufacturer and a Wendy’s store, respectively. David Moore just graduated from high school; he plans to become a crane operator.

As volunteers, you can pick calls to go, but not the Moore family.

“I just couldn’t sit there and watch a house burn. I have walked out of many dinners. I have walked out of many baseball games. We are always on call,” Moore Jr. said.

His wife, a daughter of a volunteer firefighter, has been very supportive of him, he said.

Epoch Times Photo
Lockers of several Moore family members at Neversink Engine Company in Port Jervis, N.Y., on Sept. 9, 2022. (Cara Ding/The Epoch Times)

When Brian Moore was 17, she had her gallbladder removed and was resting at home. A fire call came through her pager during the middle of the day, and not enough volunteers could go. She got up and went.

“The best part of firefighting is saving a life,” Briana Moore said.

Now, Briana Moore is a manager at a Wendy’s store so she has more discretion in answering fire calls—especially major ones. When she was a line worker, her boss wasn’t that open to her leaving work for calls.

Once volunteers go on fire calls, they are considered city employees and covered under city insurance. However, when they make mistakes on calls, they can also be punished—a 30-day suspension that goes on your record or a demotion if you have a paid job with the city, Moore Jr. said.

Moore Jr. often says he is lucky that he could learn both from his father, who knows tricks to draft water from all kinds of sources, and from his children, who know the new techniques.

Epoch Times Photo
Fire calls come through a mobile app on volunteers’ phones or their pagers. David Moore shows the mobile app at Neversink Engine Company in Port Jervis, N.Y. on Sept. 9, 2022. (Cara Ding/The Epoch Times)

He worries about the day his father can no longer drive a fire truck.

“If we don’t get more volunteers to keep it running, we will have to end up being a paid department. Taxes will go up, and you are going to have paid firefighters who sit at a firehouse all day long and run the calls,” Moore Jr. told The Epoch Times.

The Training Dilemma

New York’s increasing training requirements are the biggest obstacle to recruiting new volunteers, according to Moore Jr.

In April, Briana and David Moore both became interior firefighters after they finished the mandatory 120-hour courses. They had to travel to the training center in Goshen, the county seat, for those classes, which ran for about two hours on weekday nights and eight hours over the weekend.

Briana Moore sometimes had to hit the road right after a 12-hour work shift to catch the evening classes.

Epoch Times Photo
Briana Moore talks about her favorite picture that was taken of her and other volunteer firefighters during the Port Jervis Firemen’s Parade in 2015. Shortly after the parade, she would become a junior firefighter. (Cara Ding/The Epoch Times)

The courses are broken down into two 60-hour parts, one being the exterior firefighting operation and the other being the interior part, where you learn how to get inside a structure, such as a house, to fight a fire.

“In this day and age, many people have two jobs. They don’t have time to go to classes to be a volunteer. We had young people come in and ready to join until they found out all the training requirements,” Moore Sr. said.

Later on, Briana and David Moore will have to take additional classes to be able to drive and pump a fire truck.

The increased training is intended to bring volunteer firefighters to the same level as the professional firefighters in an age when firefighting is more complex than ever, Moore Sr. said.

“In my day, the houses were just woods. Today, the woods have all kinds of chemicals in them. You also have plastics and other materials in the house structure. You just cannot do what I did; you’ve got to have the training,” he said.

Epoch Times Photo
David Moore Sr. remembers a fire that was so big that it spread onto a fire truck. That fire was captured by pictures, which to this day remain his favorite. (Cara Ding/The Epoch Times)

In a recent training course, Briana Moore learned how to put out a fire from electric cars such as a Tesla. “In a way, the training is good, but it was also horrible because this keeps people away from becoming volunteers,” she said.

One way out is to finish the courses before having a full-time job or a family, Moore Sr. said. His grandson David Moore did just that.

Moore Jr. tried to reach out to high schoolers at various events but found few sparkling eyes.

“I blame it on this,” he said, holding up his cell phone. “They’d rather be on the video games and on their phones instead of trying to go learn something or be trained or hang out at a firehouse.”

Or they just don’t find it fashionable to do it for free, Briana Moore said. “They don’t want to risk their lives for someone they don’t even know or care about. They ask, ‘What is in it for me?’”

Epoch Times Photo
Neversink Engine Company in Port Jervis, N.Y. on Sept. 9, 2022. (Cara Ding/The Epoch Times)

Neversink Engine

The Moore family did successfully recruit a young man outside the family into volunteer firefighting.

He is David Moore’s friend, Dakota Werlitz, who spent a summer with the family years ago, watching Moore Jr. run out of the house to answer fire calls. When Dakota turned 16, he submitted his application to become a junior firefighter.

Epoch Times Photo
David Moore listens on as older family members talk at Neversink Engine Company in Port Jervis, N.Y. on Sept. 9, 2022. (Cara Ding/The Epoch Times)

Later, Werlitz became Briana Moore’s boyfriend.

Briana Moore is running to become the 2nd lieutenant at Neversink Engine. In that role, she will take on more responsibilities, such as equipment inspection and tracking calls.

The Neversink Engine expects to have a new fire truck next spring, which will be equipped with new tools to rescue people from damaged cars. Moore Jr., who oversees training at the firehouse, plans on a new training session for how to use the tools.

Moore Sr., who turns 71 in December, plans to drive the new truck for as long as he can.

Epoch Times Photo
Pictures show different engines used by Port Jervis Fire Department during its more than 200 years of history at Neversink Engine Company in Port Jervis, N.Y., on Sept. 9, 2022. (Cara Ding/The Epoch Times)

“I did this for 53 years, and I didn’t get a dime out of it. And I’m not looking for a dime,” Moore Sr. said.

The Moore family, like many other generational volunteer firefighting families in the region, are trying hard to find or cultivate people with that same mindset.

“I do [it] free now, and I can do [it] getting paid, but it is going to hurt the city majorly,” Briana Moore said.

Cara Ding
Cara is an Orange County, New York-based Epoch Times reporter. She can be reached at cara.ding@epochtimes.com
You May Also Like