Thursday, August 9th, 2012

They could be cooling off at the beach and enjoying themselves at the Jersey Shore, but instead, 66 Morris County teenagers have been spending their summer days training to be firefighters.

They enrolled in two Junior Firefighter 1 courses offered at the Morris County Public Safety Training Academy in Parsippany.  A July class had an enrollment of 36, and the current class has 30 teenage recruits.

Eight members of the current class visited the Aug. 8 work session of the Morris County Board of Freeholders with Chief Jack Alderton, the county’s fire training coordinator, and instructor Philip Wilk.

Alderton told the freeholders the course involves 150 hours of classroom and hands-on training for youngsters between 16 and 18 years old.

Classroom work covers such topics as fire behavior theory; incident management; burn education; and firefighter wellness. The hands-on portion of the course includes drills on search and rescue; forcible entry; ladders, hoses and hydrants; and live burns conducted in the Academy’s burn simulator, Alderton said.

If the student passes the New Jersey Division of Fire Safety final exam at the end of the course, he or she can then join the other volunteer firefighters in his or her town and go out on calls. However, junior firefighters are prohibited from entering a burning building or otherwise being placed “in harms way” until they turn 18, Alderton said.

Once the youngsters turn 18 and their fire departments confirm they have completed additional ventilation training with power saws, they are issued their Firefighter 1 certificate, making them full-fledged firefighters, Alderton said.

“The teenagers who complete our course have exceeded the regulatory requirements of Firefighter 1 and are already well-trained to become regular firefighters when they become 18,” Alderton told the freeholders. “We are bolstering the ranks of the local departments quicker, thus meeting the growing needs of the fire service in the county.”

According to Alderton, 480 recruits have been trained since the program began in 2004.

Several of the trainees who attended the freeholder meeting are striving to become second generation firefighters, and in the case of one of the recruits, Tyler Wendt of the Boonton Fire Department, a fourth generation firefighter.

The other recruits who were hosted by the freeholders were Michael Swanick and Anthony D’Amico of the Rockaway Borough Fire Department; Brian McCormick of the Wharton Fire Department, Bradley Ellmann of the Chester Volunteer Fire Department; Dominic Cupo of the Morris Township Fire Department; Timothy Carducci of the Mount Tabor Volunteer Fire Department; and Harrison Bamdas of the Whippany Fire Department.

Additional information regarding the Junior Firefighters program may be obtained by contacting Chief Alderton at 973-285-2984 or at [email protected].