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Training the heroes of tomorrow
DIXFIELD- It's the middle of a snowy night and your family has been awakened by the sound of the smoke alarms in your home. You don't waste any time, you get your children and gather at your meeting place. You can't believe this is happening to you. Moments later the fire department arrives and the volunteers go to work saving your home from being devoured by the flames.
Did you ever once give much thought to who those volunteers may be? In small communities such as those throughout the River Valley, you are dependent on your local insurance salesman, machinist, mill worker, medical service professional and many other everyday working men and women.
In the last few months, those professionals have been hard at work preparing the next generation of heroes to join the town forces and help save our homes from devastation.
The Western Foothills Junior Firefighting Program is made up of young adults from across the valley, including; Danielle Ranger, Hannah Dorion, Lauren Calden, Doug Swan, Allen Hodgson and Jesse Brooks-Fluery of Dixfield; Travis Oakes and Myriah Porter of Peru; D'kota Rowe, Amanda Marchetti, Brett Osgood and Savannah Swett of East Dixfield.
Those volunteer firefighters serving on the call force and overseeing the WFJFP are; Dixfield Fire Chief Scott Dennett, Peru Fire Chief William Hussey, Dixfield Fire Captain Jason Hyde, who also serves as program coordinator, Dixfield firefighter and lead mentor, Craig Wade and Peru firefighter and mentor, Corey Mills.
The program was created to give an opportunity to youngsters, both male and female between the ages of 14-17 to join the fire service and be a part of their communities. It was decided in January of 2011 that the Dixfield Fire Company Junior Program and the Peru Fire Department Junior Program would join forces and become the Western Foothills Junior Firefighting Program. The program has become nationally certified by the National Volunteer Fire Fighters Council (NVFFC). The program is structured to give the juniors the best opportunity as possible to succeed in the fire service.”
Within the program, Capt. Jason Hyde, serving as program coordinator, focuses on supporting the mentors, assisting with personnel issues, and logistics of training, funding, and legal issues that may arise.
“Fortunately, with the low call volume of the two towns,” noted Hyde. “It allows us time for better training of the juniors and added training for the call force.”
As lead mentor and mentor, Craig Wade and Corey Mills handle all training schedules, conduct training and handle 90 percent of the everyday activities with the juniors. They also oversee the juniors at actual fire scenes.
“We have two trainings per month,” noted Wade. “It's wide open for them to try all stations and as long as they have supervision, they are allowed to try any of the simulations. This allows the juniors a little more one-on-one time with the instructors and helps to further their skills in a smaller group. It's also a good refresher for any of the call force volunteers that want to join us.”
Prior to any given two-hour training night, Wade, Mill and Hyde spend anywhere from 10 to 12 hours preparing the training building for the juniors. “We try to make it as real as we can for them,” noted Wade. “You always start at square one. They need to learn to use the basic tools before we allow them to go further.”
The idea of the program is to train the juniors in everyday activities of a junior firefighter such as hooking hydrants, rehab, and changing air bottles. They also receive training in activities they will not be able to do until they're 18, such as Self Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA), structural fire attack, and extrication.
“The program was developed to grow fire service leaders,” noted Hyde. “Giving the mentors a chance to become the leaders of tomorrow by developing the youth of today. Craig has made great strides with his leadership of the program. Our department and juniors are very fortunate to have him as lead mentor.”
The juniors are also allowed to respond to any incident with their respective department, which is allowed my Maine Bureau of Labor Standards. Currently Motor Vehicle Accidents and Hazardous Material Incidents are disallowed.
For more information on how your teen or town can become involved in the WFJFP, contact Jason Hyde at 357-3857, Craig Wade at 357-4876 or Corey Mills at 364-6821.