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Syracuse ad agency launches statewide campaign to recruit volunteer firefighters

(5/21/12 – Syracuse, NY)

Syracuse, N.Y. — A Syracuse advertising agency is creating a $2.1 million statewide media campaign to recruit people into the shrinking ranks of volunteer firefighting.

ABC Creative Group, which has offices on East Genesee Street, is putting together television and radio spots, billboard messages and cinema and online advertising for the campaign under a contract with the state Firemen’s Association.

The three-year campaign, titled “Is there a fire in you?,” is the first statewide ad blitz to recruit volunteer firefighters, according to the Firemen’s Association.

The ads will kick off June 4 and are being financed by a grant from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) program.

The campaign will target men and women ages 18 to 35, but the Firemen’s Association said volunteer fire departments have a need for people of all ages.

John D’Alessandro, deputy volunteer programs coordinator for the Albany-based association, said there were between 100,000 and 110,000 volunteer firefighters in New York 10 years ago. Since then, the number has fallen to between 85,000 and 90,000, he said.

Many people these days work two jobs and do not believe they have time to devote to firefighting, he said. And many are forced to live farther from work to afford housing, making it difficult for them to respond to fire calls in their home communities, he said.

D’Alessandro said many people also mistakenly believe that being a firefighter means running into burning buildings. In addition to “interior” firefighters who are trained to enter burning buildings, volunteer departments need people to direct traffic at fire scenes, maintain the fire stations and clean and resupply the trucks after a fire, he said.

Travis Bort, owner and creative director of ABC Creative Group, said television ads featuring two volunteer firefighters — Oriskany Fire Chief Jeff Burkhart and East Aurora Fire Lt. Jessie Roland-Bystrak — were filmed earlier this month in Onondaga County.

Burkhart, 36, a deputy with the Oneida County Sheriff’s Office, is depicted driving to work in one scene and assisting at a car accident in the next scene. Roland-Bystrak, 20, a security guard with Command Security Corp., is shown attending college and then fighting a fire. The car accident and fire scenes were staged at the Clay Fire Department’s training facility on Route 31. The college scene was filmed at Syracuse University.

Bort said the ads convey the message that volunteer firefighting is “one of the best ways for people to give back to their communities.”

“You’re doing something to help your neighbors,” he said. “It does take a lot of your time, but it’s well worth it.”

ABC Creative Group also is creating a website that will direct people interested in becoming volunteer firefighters to a fire department close to where they live.

The Firemen’s Association, which was founded in Auburn in 1872, said ABC was chosen to create the ads because of its experience as the association’s advertising agency for the past 13 years. ABC handles all of the association’s internal communications and marketing.