Last evening, West Grove Fire Company held a junior member orientation and training session at the New London Station.
Junior members are those defined as younger than 18 years old, and represent the "next generation" of volunteers at WGFC. The program follows a well-documented set of WGFC guidelines, which take into account regulations established by state and federal authorities, to help assure juniors "work" only the number of hours permitted, stay focused on schoolwork, and are given additional protection to assure supervision and safety as they become firefighters and EMTs.
Training for juniors was suspended for many months this year during the initial stages of the COVID pandemic. Warmer weather and a re-opening of restrictions in PA for group meetings has allowed WGFC to re-start the program, which is managed by Assistant Fire Chief Eric Felker.
At last night's session, seven junior members participated, along with two young-adult members, and two new members interested in EMS operations. Participants were first taken through a review of the program guidelines over pizza, and then trained outside for some hands on work with both firefighting and EMS operations.
Membership Secretary Victoria Ford took the group through helping on the ambulance, and gave everyone a chance to practice using the stair chair and powered stretchers. Lieutenant Matthew Glass took the juniors through some training on properly "dressing" (or hooking up to) a fire hydrant, and then showed them how the Fire Company operates ground monitors (high volume deluge guns used on larger fires).
These hands on sessions not only build basic skills so the juniors can assist more senior firefighters, they also get the new members comfortable with being around the fire apparatus and ambulances, and help them build relationships with the officers, staff and members of the organization. Some young people join and are active for a few years until going off to college or moving away -- but many start long careers in the fire service. So the early investment in these new volunteers can translate into 30+ years of volunteerism for WGFC.