CLEARFIELD COUNTY, Pa. (WTAJ) – Fire departments across the region face the challenge of finding volunteers, and a growing number of departments are forced to rely on aging members, who will soon be retiring.
Because of that, the need for the next generation of recruits is not only greater but urgent.
The Clearfield Fire Department has answered 172 calls in 2021, as of June 24. With only 15 active members, the volunteers at Clearfield fire are under constant pressure, as they never know who may be available when duty calls. Assistant chief of the Clearfield Volunteer Fire Department, Brett Collins, knows the importance of a strong junior program, and the need to answer the call, because he started out in Clearfield’s junior program himself, at just 14 years old.
“It’s a huge benefit for, us especially nowadays,” Collins said. “Volunteer numbers are way down from where they used to be. So any help is good help, I guess.”
Although a junior member can’t fight fires yet, the impact they make, both in the fire house, and active scenes is still huge. They can help pump operators, drag hoses, hit hydrants and change air bottles.
It also offers the opportunity to get a head start on many training classes, including essentials of firefighting modules, vehicle rescue class and smoke rescue training. All together, a junior can complete more than 200 hours of training before the time comes to become a full-time member.
“Being a junior fireman is a good time to sit back and learn how everything works,” Collins said, when asked about how the junior program gives a first-hand look into everything that goes into being a firefighter.
At 17 years old, Samuel Muir has spent a year in Clearfield’s junior firefighter program. Growing up in a family of firefighters, he said it is his calling.
“You just kind of watch the older members who have done it a while. And they show you different tips and tricks they’ve learned ever since they’ve been juniors or however long that they’ve been a fireman,” Muir said.
In a day and age where departments are struggling to survive, Muir knows these juniors are the future
“It’s time for the younger generation to step up and do what the community needs,” Muir said.
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