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FASNY Winter Games welcome a new generation

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CNY/NNY/S. Tier: FASNY Winter Games welcome a new generation
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It's that time of the year when hundreds of firefighters from across New York gather to test their skills and maybe spark some new rivalries. Time Warner Cable News Reporter Sarah Blazonis takes us to this year's FASNY Winter Games.

VIRGIL, N.Y. -- You won't find any figure skating or luge running at the 2014 FASNY Winter Games. The annual event held at Greek Peak is all about giving crews the chance to show off their skills, but in a much more relaxed situation than usual.

"It gives us a chance as all of our group to come down and have a little bit of fun," said Michelle Magee, chief of the Fairville Fire Deptartment Explorers Post.

Magee, 18, and her crew are a bit younger than most of this weekend's 300-plus competitors. Explorer posts are groups that help teens interested in becoming volunteer firefighters learn the ropes.

"Our kids learn about everything on the trucks. If you ask them to go get something, they can probably go get it in a second's time," said the post's head adviser, Teena Johnson.

Enrollment of volunteer firefighters has dropped statewide from about 120,000 ten years ago to about 90,000 today. FASNY officials say that's one of the reasons why it's so important to include the next generation in events like the winter games.

"It's something we struggle with all the time. It's nothing you can focus your attention on for a little while and then not worry about it. It's just one of those constant moving targets you have to be working on with recruitment," said FASNY Chief Administration Officer David Quinn.

Explorer programs have seen success, Fairville's program sees 99 percent of its participants become volunteers.

Magee says she comes from a family of firefighters and knows firsthand how important the teamwork on display at the games can be to communities like hers.

"Without those volunteer firefighters, if the house goes down, we can't get there fast enough and be able to save it, if it's even salvageable," said Magee.

That's one of the reasons organizers hope to see participation in the games grow in the years to come.

FASNY's annual Recruit New York Day coming up in April is aimed at getting more people to sign up with volunteer departments. For more information, visit www.recruitny.org/opendoors

This year's winter games wrap up Sunday with broomball on the SUNY Cortland campus.

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