Junior firefighters get hands-on training from Tryon firefighters

Published 7:10 pm Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Tryon Fire Department relies on a few very important, very young members.
Tryon Fire Chief Joey Davis describes the department’s junior firefighters as “extremely active in the department.”
Ethan Edwards (16), Savannah Hipp (15) and Daniel Walker (15) currently serve as junior members, running up to 50 calls a year.
While junior members are only required to complete 36 hours of training per year, all three have easily exceeded that amount. In 2011, Hipp ran 49 fire calls and completed 66 hours of training, Walker ran 45 fire calls and completed 88 hours of training and Edwards met the 36-hour requirement from both Tryon and Green Creek Fire Departments.
Yancy Pace, another junior member who is soon to graduate from the program, managed to complete 32 hours in less than six months.
“They’re like little sponges,” Davis said. “They absorb everything on the scene.”
Junior members in any Polk County department have certain restrictions adopted from the State Fire Marshal’s Office. Some of these restrictions include:
• No calls after 9 p.m. on school nights
• No calls during the school day
• Must maintain a C average in all classes
• No performing dangerous activities such as entering a burning building or cutting into a car at an accident scene
These restrictions, as well as the inability to obtain firefighter certification until age 18, are the main differences between junior members and firefighters.
Although there are many duties junior members cannot legally perform, Davis said the Tryon Fire Department treats them as much like regular firefighters as possible. Junior members get pagers just as regular duty firefighters do, and they attend classes, meetings and training sessions as a department – there are not separate classes for junior members except for on special occasions.
“If regular members get
T-shirts, then junior members get T-shirts,” Davis said. “We want them to feel as much a part of the department as anyone else.”
The duties of junior members mostly take place in the staging area, or the secure place where people and equipment are kept away from the fire. At accident scenes, junior members help firefighters put on and take off equipment since they are legally not allowed to go near the fire.
Davis said by going on fire calls, junior members are able to become familiar with the truck, equipment and operating guidelines. He said this is extremely useful should they choose firefighting as a permanent career, because they already know the ropes.
“It’s awesome that they can now join at age 14,” Davis said.
Every past junior member of the Tryon Fire Department has stayed involved with the fire service, Davis said, either as a career or as volunteer work. Wesley Johnson, the youngest member to ever win Firefighter of the Year from Tryon, joined as a junior member and is now planning to go into the Navy as a firefighter. Christian Miller became a junior member at age 15, and is now 21 and a lieutenant for Buncombe County.
Davis said the ultimate firefighter is one who starts as a junior member at age 14 or 15 and obtains certification at age 18, because they have young and able bodies, as well as years of experience in the fire service.
“The junior member program is a good way to get young people interested in the fire service,” Davis said.

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