Long first to sign on as Rockport junior firefighter
Rockport — Camden Hills Regional High School junior Drew Long said he realizes it is up to his generation to continue to protect the community as members of the fire department.
“I think everyone should join because it is important to make sure that the town has enough firefighters to make it safe,” he said. “If the younger generation doesn’t get involved then eventually there won’t be many people left to fight the fires.”
Although the town has allowed minors to join the department in the past, Rockport select board recently gave approval for the formation of a junior firefighter program and its first official member — Long — is excited for what the program has in store.
“This has been a great experience so far,” Long said. “I have always thought about becoming a fireman and when the opportunity came along I said to myself, 'why not.'”
Long said encouragement from family friend Rockport Assistant Chief John Wickenden prompted him to inquire about joining the department.
“He [Wickenden] and I talked about it and he said that I should join because I had an interest,” Long said. “I’m glad I did because I am learning a lot of things so that when I turn 18, I’ll be ready to go.”
According to Maine Department of Labor, minors younger than 16 years old can perform non-hazardous duties at the fire station and ride in the cab of fire apparatus responding to an emergency scene. However, if the training is deemed hazardous, an instructor may be required to supervise the minor. Junior firefighters are allowed to perform non-hazardous tasks at the scene of a fire or emergency.
Minors that are 16 and 17 years old can ride as a passenger in the cab of a fire truck or in an emergency vehicle. With proper training, junior firefighters can battle ground fires when they are directly supervised — except those involve an existing "crown fire," in the treetops — perform patient care [for which they are licensed] in an emergency vehicle or at the scene of an accident or other emergency, the Department of Labor guidelines state.
Junior firefighters can also attend and take part in supervised training and participate in fire department functions within a safe area of an emergency scene, perform fire engine set-up and other support functions.
"Junior firefighters are very important to maintaining a strong fire department," Rockport Fire Chief Jason Peasley said. "Drew is doing a great job and he enjoys it, so he will go tell his friends and hopefully they will join as well. I am really looking forward to working with them and helping them become firefighters."
Long said he thinks it is important to be an active part of the community and is appreciative of the opportunities being part of the program will afford him.
“Not only am I able to give back to my community by being part of the fire department, I am learning a bunch of other things like problem solving skills and working with a team,” he said. “These guys are great, they take the time to explain things and they are good about making me feel like part of the team.”
Long said that he has been looking into taking the firefighter/EMT course being offered at Midcoast School of Technology and is looking forward to continuing his training with Rockport Fire Department.
“It really is a lot of fun, I am very glad that I decided to become part of the program,” Long said.
Dwight Collins is a reporter/photographer for The Camden Herald.
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