Recruiting and Training Tomorrow’s First Responders

High school students take the responsibility to volunteer for training and
commitment to be lifesavers.

Left engine: West Deer VFD No. 2, Station 289, Junior firefighters are Anthony Creaturo Jr., Matt Campos, Justin Hanson, Luke Mancuso, Patrick Hanson, A. J. Schmidt, Bill Bailey, IV, Brandon Badilion, Riece Bayne, and Justin Clifford.

Center engine: West Deer VFC No. 3, Station 290 Junior firefighters include: Luke Smith, Cole Cannon. Ronald Hampton III  (Hampton High School, missing from photo). They also have two seniors at Deer Lakes who were considered juniors and have now turned 18 and are considered regular fire fighters. They are Alex Gall and Heather White.

Right Engine: West Deer VFD No. 1, Station 288, Junior firefighters includes: Zak Raynovich, Devin Reiher and Molly Carroll (missing from the photo). Frazer #1 has one Junior firefighter Gail Callender, III (missing from photo). Photo by Lori Nilson Photographs.

Statistics show that the volunteer fire service is an aging population.  In addition, volunteer departments are facing challenges retaining and recruiting members at a time when call volume has more than doubled in the past two decades.  Departments across the country are struggling to attract younger members to join their ranks and ensure the future of the fire service. 

Junior firefighter programs are a great way for departments to gain the interest of potential first responders while they are young and help build the next generation of fire and emergency service leaders.

There are thousands of local junior firefighter programs nationwide. In the West Deer Township area, Allegheny County Fire Academy provides programs and training where departments and youth alike can find the resources, tools, training, and information they need to help develop, grow, enhance, promote, and participate in becoming a first responder and most importantly, how to stay safe when helping others.

A goal of volunteer fire departments is to get more youth involved in fire and emergency services, so they can foster a lifelong relationship with the emergency services in their area where they can continue to serve as first responders and community supporters of the fire service throughout their adulthood. Junior firefighter programs instill life-enhancing skills and values such as leadership, teamwork, responsibility, and community service in the youth who participate.
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Junior firefighting is a youth activity organized by our local fire departments. It serves as a means of personal development for the youths, as well as a recruiting pool for the fire departments.

Frazer #1 Fire Company has one student/junior firefighter, Gail Calendar III who was not available for photos on the day the groups were taken at the Deer Lakes High School.

West Deer #1, #2 and #3 combined have the largest group of students/junior firefighters. The East Deer Fire Company allows for juniors in its charter, but their juniors have aged to become regular firefighters. Frazer #1 and #2 Fire Company has one junior working in Frazer #1 He was not available for the group picture but is Gail Calendar III.

Junior firefighter programs give young people the chance to learn about local fire, rescue, and emergency medical services response organizations in a safe, controlled, educational, and fun way while providing departments with an excellent recruitment mechanism. Reaching out to people when they are young has long-range effects, and encouraging youth to take part in the emergency services is extremely beneficial to local communities and departments. Benefits of junior firefighter programs include:

According to Josh Weigand, Chief of West Deer #3, Station 290, training can be taken at the Allegheny County Fire Academy in North Park starting at age 14. Firefighting Modules 1 (16 hrs.), Module 2 (32 hrs.), Module 3 (56 hrs.) and Hazmat Awareness (4 hrs.), Hazmat Operations (24 hrs.) and National Incident Management System courses (3 hrs.). All can be obtained between 14 and 17 years of age.

In the Deer Lakes Community, East Deer Volunteer Fire Company has a membership classification for junior firefighters, however they currently don’t have any active at this time, as the juniors they had aged up and became senior members of the fire department.

West Deer VFD No. 1, Station 288, has Chris Reiher, Assistant Chief in charge of Junior Fire Fighters that includes: Zak Raynovich, Devin Reiher, and Molly Carroll.

At West Deer VFD No. 2, Station 289, Anthony Creaturo, Assistant Chief is in charge of their Junior Fire Fighters. Their members includes: Anthony Creaturo Jt., Matt Campos, Justin Hanson, Luke Mancuso, Patrick Hanson, A. J. Schmidt, Bill Bailey IV, Brandon Badilion, Riece Bayne A., and Justin Clifford.

Josh Weigand, Chief of West Deer VFC No. 3, Station 290 is charge of their Junior Firefighters which include: Luke Smith, Cole Cannon. Ronald Hampton III  (Hampton High School). They also have two seniors at Deer Lakes that have turned 18 and are now considered regular fire fighters. They are Alex Gall and Heather White.

Frazer VFD #1 has one Junior Firefighter Gail Calender III.

Junior volunteer firefighters spend a lot of their personal time training…time that could be spent on sports and after school activities rather than the extensive training, call response and learning the ropes at the local fire stations.

 “In Allegheny County, volunteer firefighters protect over 910,000 people. In addition, volunteer firefighters save the county an estimated $60 million dollars a year. There are 203 volunteer fire companies in Allegheny County and the challenge of keeping these companies fully staffed, well trained and ready to respond at a moment’s notice is one that nearly every fire company in the region addresses on a regular basis.” Source: CCAC training post.

Thanks juniors for volunteering to save our lives and our property.