Behind the Scenes: Junior Firefighters

by Liz Edinger, junior RT

What does it mean to be a firefighter? As the whistle howls long and loud, blood pulsates through every vein and your heart beats like a bass drum. A firefighter, especially a junior firefighter, must react in the moment and without error. All firefighters have guts to try to save a family, yet they all have family at home; I know this, because I am a junior firefighter.  

One of the first lessons I needed to learn was that life as a firefighter is a little dangerous and a little difficult. Firefighters to have proper training so they know how to react in the moment. Each day firefighters must be on their toes so that when that whistle blows, and it will, firefighters can hurry to that call with the training they need to return alive.  Firefighters don’t know how bad it is until they show up on scene so when they do arrive, they work together to figure who is in charge so firefighters can quickly control the incident. Though standing back and observing can be frustrating, no one has the time to teach juniors what to do in the moment of a call; Every firefighter plays their own part in helping on a call even if they are itching to get into the action.  Because of the danger, junior firefighters know that a little self restraint is needed.

I have also come to understand that my fellow firefighters are my brothers and sisters.  They have my back no matter what happens because the goal is to come back to the station with the same number of people who left on that screaming fire engine. Not all firefighters get paid; most volunteer, so the fact that they select to risk their lives is amazing. Firefighters take time out of their days to train and drill so when that whistle blows, the volunteers can go save a life of a victim and back up their fellow fire-fighting family. If a firefighter is in a burning building the firefighter has to expect the unexpected, so it is always better to have a brother or sister standing close by. When firefighters have someone watching their back, they have someone to give them a hand or drag them to safety.

I have “brothers and sisters” in my department, but they also exist in my biological family, as well.  My dad has been a firefighter since he was sixteen; he is now the assistant chief of the Wampum Volunteer Fire Department. My step-mom has been a firefighter/medic for as long as I can remember; she is now on the other side of the radio and works at a 911 dispatch center in Beaver County. My sister joined the fire department when she was sixteen, and she is in the process of taking her emergency medical responder (EMR) test so she can help the paramedic when they arrive on scene. Because this family connection, I have always wanted to fight fires; I joined the department in August. I have always felt like being a firefighter is in my blood, and I am proud to be learning the ropes to help when I get on scene and continue my family legacy.  

There are a lot of people who love being junior firefighters because it teaches the importance of service to others and responsibility for all.  I am not the only one who is proud to fight fires. Trevor Cunningham (MTT senior), a member of Wurtemburg Perry Fire Department., says, “Being a junior firefighter is about being a part of something that is bigger than yourself.” His dedication to being a firefighter inspires me.

Trevor is not the only junior firefighter at LCCTC; Jacob Runyan (Welding junior), a member of the Chewton Fire Department, says, “Being a junior firefighter has given me lots of opportunities to learn and be a helpful part of the community.” I am able to work with Jacob on a regular basis because I am on a lot of calls with Chewton, one of our neighboring departments.  These two departments have learned a lot from each other and have assisted on several occasions.

Being goofy teenager is one thing, but when junior firefighters are at the scene, they are hard-working men and women who try to do their part;  for example, Tim Porada (EO junior), one who others may consider especially goofy, says, “Life as a junior firefighter is about being brave and having courage when others do not.”  When a junior firefighter is on a call, he or she gets down to business -- Tim knows when to be serious, and training to be a firefighter has helped him with this.

When it comes to bravery, these guys are just a tip of the iceberg. They are courageous firefighters and I would, if need be, put my life in their hands. If you know of someone who thinks they can handle it, tell them to go to their local department and fill out an application; it’s what I did, and I’ve never regretted that decision.