Posted Wednesday, August 24th, 2011

Instead of spending the “dog days” of summer at the beach, 60 Morris County

teenagers spent those days training to be firefighters.

They were enrolled in a Junior Firefighter 1 course at the Morris County Public Safety Training Academy in Parsippany.

Eight members of the class visited the Aug. 24 work session of the Morris County Board of Freeholders with Chief Jack Alderton, the county’s fire training coordinator.

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.

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.

“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 the chief, 414 recruits, many of whom are 2nd and 3rd generation firefighters, have been trained since the program began in 2004.

The junior firefighters who were hosted by the freeholders were Brendan Baker of the Boonton Fire Department, Robert F. Crothers of the Denville Fire Department, Paul J. Cullen and Donald V. Underhill of the Morris Plains Fire Department, Shannon M. Fluke and Robert R. Schellhammer of Netcong Fire Company #1 and Kurt S. Warner of the Mine Hill Fire Department.

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