Flames flickering for After the Fire relief organization

Fire relief group puts out call for members as ranks dwindle

— Hedgeman first heard about After the Fire f when her best friend, whose husband was a volunteer firefighter, suggested she check it out. Like best friends do, Hedgeman went along. That was all the way back in 1997.

New volunteers are teamed up with veteran volunteers when visiting a fire scene. That gives them a chance to learn what questions to ask and how to ask them. Volunteers are on call 24 hours a day, seven hours a week, with the idea it’s important to offer comfort as quickly as possible.

It’s rare, though, that a call actually comes. After the Fire had responded to seven calls in 2012 through October; it answered 13 calls in 2011. But when a call does come, it can quickly become overwhelming, especially when it includes an apartment where more than one family is involved. Those seven calls in 2012 encompassed 19 families and 46 people. The 13 calls in 2011 were for 22 families and 57 people.

The assistance After the Fire offers is possible largely due to donations, which sometimes come from fire victims themselves once they’re back on their feet. The Saratoga-Wilton Elks donate some of the proceeds from their twice-monthly breakfasts to the group, and Union Fire Co. No. 2 in Ballston Spa set aside money from its annual Good Friday fish fry for After the Fire. Spare Time in Clifton Park recently held a bowling fundraiser, and the group also applied for a grant.

Still, money is always needed, as are volunteers. Some members have health problems that prevent them from visiting fire scenes, so more people to answer fire calls would be great. But the organization would also gladly welcome people who want to answer phone calls, solicit donations or answer questions.

The extent of the damage is not important when people turn to After the Fire for help, Hedgeman said. All that matters is that there’s been a fire and they could use a hand. The organization serves anyone within Saratoga County who has experienced a fire.

“You’re helping people when they’re at their worst,” Hedgeman said. “It’s very rewarding.”

After the Fire encourages its volunteers to attend monthly meetings, but there’s no set time commitment. To learn more, visit www.afterthefire.org.

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