Thirty-five prospective firefighters from 10 to 17 years old, most from the North Fork, spent all day Saturday on Plum Island, rigorously training to prepare for the unexpected surprises of fire calls.
The junior firefighting teams from East Marion, Mattituck and Mineola spent the day conducting search-and-rescue operations, hazardous materials training and handling emergencies in a confined space on the island, which belongs to the federal government.
The day was planned by Plum Island Fire Chief Bill Anderson, who also serves in the East Marion Fire Department. It’s the first time the island has hosted a group of youngsters for fire training.
“We’ve had the Boy Scouts over here before, but this is our first time ever doing a field day for junior firefighters,” said Mr. Anderson. “It’s scaled way back from adult firefighter training. Most of it is more of a demonstration, but there are a couple of stations that are unique to Plum Island, including working in confined spaces and hazmat training.”
During search and rescue training, junior firefighters were paired in teams and told to search for a missing firefighter in a building. Their masks were covered with paper towels to simulate vision being impaired by smoke. They crawled together in full gear and kept their partners nearby and informed as they followed a hose that had been laid out by the missing firefighter.
Mattituck firefighter Ed Cassidy, an adviser who joined the group on their trip, said young people in the junior firefighter program develop a sense of community, teamwork, volunteerism and cooperation.
At East Marion, according to Bill Anderson, more than half the junior firefighters have become adult firefighters or police officers and many have become emergency medical technicians.
“This is good for the community and good for the services. If a community had to pay for these services, the cost would be staggering,” he said.