Budding firefighters interested in getting hands-on training now have a new option in College Station.
The College Station Fire Department is offering a Junior Firefighter Program for ages 12 to 18. On Saturday, the group had its inaugural meeting at Brayton Fire Training Field, attracting seven participants who learned about fire behavior by watching small-scale burns during the three-hour course.
“This stemmed from our Junior Firefighter Camp we hold each year,” said Christina Seidel, College Station Fire Department community risk reduction specialist. “We had one student camper who was aging out of it, and they expressed interest in creating a program. The purpose is to get youths interested in the field of firefighting, so it’s for those who are too old to be campers, but still too young to be in the Citizens’ Fire Academy.”
So far, 12 participants from across the Brazos Valley have signed up. On Saturday, participants watched doll houses burn in a controlled environment at Brayton, all while firefighters and Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service instructors explained firefighting concepts.
One three-hour session will be held on a Saturday each month, and the program is able to host up to 20 attendees.
“For our next meetings, they will be learning about firefighters’ personal protective equipment and about self-controlled breathing apparatus,” Seidel said. “They will learn about how to put on gear and how to put on masks. They’ll learn about the proper use of fire extinguishers, forcible entry, hose pulling, ladder tactics and search and rescue.”
The training and courses will not be structured progressively, and repeat attendance might see overlap in some curriculum, Seidel noted. Fire department officials hope that kids who stick with the program, however, will be able to assist firefighters in a volunteer capacity, standing by to aid first responders on scene at a real emergency by bringing them water and offering rehabilitative assistance. Ideally, a young person will enjoy their experience in the program so much that they will want to join the fire department ranks as an adult, Seidel said.
“Our fire department wants to recruit local talent,” she said. “One of our goals with this program is to see kids even go on to get their firefighting and EMT certificates.”
The first six months of the program will be hosted free of charge, though the department plans to start charging an annual fee of $50 no later than March. Seidel said this fee would be used to directly support the continuation of the program.
Seidel pointed out that in addition to familiarizing kids and teens to firefighting, this program should empower children to practice fire safety at home.
“We believe that the more kids understand the power of fire, they will learn to have respect for it, and they will be willing to be more proactive in [being safe] against fire.”
Seidel and her colleagues are still in the process of developing a website for the new program, but those interested in enrolling their child may email Seidel at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Participants are not required to reside in College Station to attend.