Faced with a staffing shortage that has resulted in part from the Island housing crisis, the Edgartown fire and emergency services department is holding two recruitment sessions in the next two weeks in the hopes of refilling its ranks.

The sessions, which include an open house at the Edgartown fire station, will occur on Sunday Sept. 26 and Oct. 3 between 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. All are welcome, according to Edgartown fire chief Alex Schaeffer. Requirements include a sense of commitment, duty and service, as well as a valid state driver’s license for non-Junior members.

Speaking to the Gazette by phone, Chief Schaeffer said that the department has seen substantial numbers of volunteers and staff lose housing in recent years, causing a staffing crunch at the station. With a full-time staff of seven that relies on dozens of volunteers to help with emergency responses at all hours of the day, the housing shortage has put an additional burden on staff that do have stable residences in Edgartown. The department has dropped from about 40 to 30 listed volunteers..

“Certainly with the Covid real estate boom that we’ve seen that exacerbated,” Chief Schaeffer said.

He noted that the department would have to change its tactic of generally recruiting from Edgartown residents, emphasizing that employment in the Edgartown department was open to Islanders from any of the six Vineyard towns. The department has created quarters in the station for out of town residents to work shifts in Edgartown.

“The typical model...of our firefighters living in our town and pulling from that pool, that’s just not feasible anymore,” Chief Schaeffer added.

Dating back to the early 19th century, the Edgartown fire department has a long history of providing service to the entire Island community. Traditionally a volunteer call fire department with full-time ambulance staff, the growth of the Island population and increase in call volume has created the need for full-time fire staff as well, Chief Schaeffer said.

But he wants to ensure that the call-side of the department continues long into the future, in part because volunteer staff can offer a unique range of skills when responding to fires or related emergencies.

“We’re doing everything we can to try to keep it a call department, because we have so much strength through our diversity of people,” Chief Schaeffer said. “When we call everybody in for a large structure fire, I’ve got electricians, truck drivers...I’ve got a huge cast of diverse skills at my disposal.”

The department is looking for firefighters and EMT’s with varying levels of commitment. Training is available for almost any interested party, and pay ranges from $100 to $150 per shift, depending on the type of work.

Training for firefighters occurs on-Island, from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. on Wednesday and 9:00 a.m. to 12 noon on Sunday, while EMT training is available through Cape Cod Community College in the fall and spring. Classes are typically Monday and Wednesday nights from 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., with a Saturday lab session from 9:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m.

Tuition reimbursement or a stipend is available for both EMT and firefighter training.

“There’s an opportunity, and there’s a need,” Chief Schaeffer said. “We hope the open houses can serve as a springboard to get more people interested.”

For further information, contact the Edgartown fire department at 508-627-5168, or by email at efd@edgartown-ma.us.