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Junior firefighter program thriving

Marc Levesque, a Grade 11 student from Gerard Redmond, practices shutting in a sprinkler using two pieces of wood as part of Junior Firefighting training at the Hinton Fire Hall.
Masha Scheele Photo

Masha Scheele

A program that has helped produce volunteer firefighters for Hinton Fire Rescue is putting seven new recruits through the paces.

Hinton’s Junior Firefighting program gives high school students the opportunity for a first glimpse at firefighter training. Six current Hinton Fire Rescue members started with the junior firefighting program.

“They went through the program and liked it a lot. It’s proof that it works on helping people see if they want to do it as a career,” said Ryan Creasey, fire lieutenant and Hinton firefighter who is leading the program in its 12th year.

Junior firefighters that go on to join the volunteer department already have a preliminary level of training that makes for an easier transition.

The purpose of the program is for high school students from Grade 10 to 12 to test out a potential future career while earning school credits.

For eight months the juniors meet at the fire hall every Monday after school to go over all kinds of training. Last year the program said goodbye to a large number of graduates and in turn they welcomed seven new people at the beginning of September.

“We have two grade 10s and both are girls, which is good. We definitely get more boys, but in the last few years we have seen more girls,” said Creasey.

He added that it’s great to see more variety in applicants as the program is welcome to everyone.

Throughout the year students learn how to use the tools needed in emergency response situations like vehicle extractions, water rescues, or getting out of a burning building.

Students get to practice in the department’s burn building as well as spend a day on a frozen lake doing ice water rescues.

“Most of them come to do a five or six hour in-water rescue and we really [get] them involved,” said Creasy.

For the ice water rescue they have used Maxwell Lake in the past, but more recently they’ve used a trout pond nearby.

“Depending on the ice, we either cut a hole or if its thin enough we go in as is,” commented Creasy.

At the end of the year, students take over and call the shots during the Preventing Alcohol Related Trauma in Youth (PARTY) program demonstration.

“We do three days to teach them and they use the tools and go through scenarios, then at the PARTY program they run it and make the calls. We just shadow and make sure they don’t hurt themselves,” added Creasy.

Creasy became involved in the program three years ago, helping Lt. Adison Vidrih as part of his work experience.

Creasy took over the reigns of the program for this year as Vidrih is off on medical leave. Being more involved this year, Creasy added that he has witnessed the positive progress of the students.

“I know a couple of the students that have been here since my first year, this is now their last year in the program,” he said.

Over those years he has witnessed how the program has helped build confidence in the students and created positive changes in their attitudes towards work, he continued.

“[We] try to give them good guidance and giving 100 per cent into whatever you’re doing. You can’t really do 50 per cent of it, if you’re involved in something you have to give it your all or it won’t work out for you in the end,” he said.

Being from Ontario, Creasy didn’t have the option to join a program like this and he added that he didn’t know what he wanted to do until later after high school.

“Some of the students really grew a passion for firefighting and I know some of them really want to continue this career and try to get full time somewhere,” he said.

Besides opportunities to join the Hinton fire department after the program, students can also go to school to pursue the career and apply in different locations.

The program benefits those students that want to continue with the career as they’ve already received a lot of hands on experience throughout the year. Creasy added that community support is a big factor in the success of the program as well.

Donations for equipment and gear from local organizations have helped tremendously to make sure they have all the equipment and sizes in gear for the students to learn.

“The town plays a big part in that also, they budgeted for new bunker gear for them. We have a lot to thank the town and community,” he said.