After the scanner beeps in the overnight hours and the call begin coming in, three Greenport High School students hop out of bed and race to the East Marion Fire Department, where they join fellow volunteers.
Some nights may be spent helping an elderly person who requires medical attention, while others entail responding to an automatic fire alarm.
A few hours later, the department’s youngest members — Danielle Fauteux and Nicholas Wallace, both 18, and Jack Webster, 17 — head to class.
The trio became full members after turning 17. Danielle is an emergency medical technician, Nicholas is a certified first responder and Jack is a certified first responder and interior firefighter.
“We made a pledge to help,” Jack said. “It’s a commitment.”
Danielle, Nicholas and Jack all joined the department as junior members nearly a decade ago, when they were just 10 years old.
As an EMT, Danielle rides in ambulances on calls — her favorite part of the job — and can treat patients now that she has completed a certification class and passed the corresponding test. As a CFR, Nicholas preps patients for ambulance rides, while Danielle and other EMTs administer medications that may be needed.
Similarly, Jack can ride on the trucks and respond to calls since he completed a Firefighter 1 certification. However, he has to wait until he turns 18 this fall to take a final certification class and test.
As junior members, the trio learned about the department and the responsibilities entrusted to its members while participating in training activities. Nicholas recalled the activities, which included racing to see who could get their gear on the fastest or fill up their hose first, as fun.
Now that the teens have finally finished junior training, they don’t plan on leaving the department anytime soon.
Danielle plans to attend college locally after she graduates in June and already filled out an application to be a member of the Riverhead Volunteer Ambulance Corps. Jack, a junior, also envisions himself attending a local college and staying with the East Marion Fire Department.
Nicholas, on the other hand, isn’t sure if he’ll be able to remain an active CRF while at college, since volunteers are only allowed to be members of one department at a time. However, he would be interested in continuing afterward.
The East Marion Fire Department currently has eight junior members and 38 full-time members, said Laura Fauteux, an EMT and rescue squad captain.
Ms. Fauteux applauded the teenagers’ commitment to the department, especially since not every student who enters the junior program goes on to become a full member.
The three students all have family members in the department, which is why they got involved at such a young age. It was the friendships they made, the fun they had and the things they’ve learned that kept them engaged throughout the years, Nicholas said.
“I think it really depends on their want to become a firefighter,” said Ms. Fauteux, who is Danielle’s mother.
The situation is similar at the Cutchogue Fire Department, where four high school seniors are currently full-time members, said Chief Bill Brewer. The juniors program at Cutchogue, now in its 25th year, is open to children ages 11 to 17. As with the East Marion Fire Department, they can become full-time members at age 17 instead of 18. The Cutchogue junior program has about 25 members and the department itself has 115 full-time members.
“The juniors program is a big asset to the department as far as allowing young members to join or exposing young members to the fire and EMS service,” Chief Brewer said.
Now that they’re full-time members, nothing is off-limits to Danielle, Jack and Nicholas.
“It’s very difficult,” Nicholas said. “Sometimes calls come early in the morning or at night, which can be a problem, but there’s no time schedule for people to get hurt or anything.”
The others agreed, saying it’s often challenging to balance the responsibilities of the department, school and extracurricular activities. Jack, who recently finished basketball season, said he sometimes left games to respond to calls. Nicholas, a Boy Scout, spent the majority of the past year completing his Eagle Scout project. Danielle said it’s not uncommon for her to also leave events and activities early.
“This is more important,” she said. “It’s either save a life or stay at a meeting.”
When they’re at the scene, the students said their adrenaline and years of training kicks in, allowing them to assess the situation and ask plenty of questions. They all agreed that responding to calls and putting their training to use has taught them more about the volunteer position than they imagined.
“It’s thrilling,” Jack said. “I’ve learned so much since I was 10 and to be able to put it to good use [is great].”
Photo: Greenport High School senior Danielle Fauteux, junior Jack Webster and senior Nicholas Wallace (not pictured) recently became full members of East Marion Fire Department. The students joined as junior members of the department at age 10 and after years of working their way through the ranks are able to answer any call with full privileges. (Credit: Nicole Smith)