Volunteer fire departments all over the state of Texas have one thing in common; recruitment. New Deal Fire/EMS has a program that could aid that problem. Fire Chief Randy Teeter implemented a Junior Firefighter Program within his department. The program began in 2008 and has become a great success.
Chief Teeter, along with appointed supervisors Jeff Deslaurier and Amber Thomas, set out on a journey with our community’s young people, ages 13-17. The idea for this program is to get the kids involved not only in our community, but in fire service. Hopefully during their time in the program, we are able to retain some of the kids to move forward to volunteer firefighters or EMTs. Occasionally, we have a junior firefighter who recruits a parent. In this case, the department gains a new member and the junior firefighter and his or her parent can train together.
This program operates just as the department with its own standard operating guidelines and procedures. Over time the supervisory role has changed to Chief Teeter and Firefighter Chris Bruce. Since the appointment of Chris Bruce, he and Chief Teeter have implemented many new ideas and changes. The program guidelines concentrate on areas such as school grades, respect, morals, and citizenship.
These young people are now gaining a real knowledge of fire service as a whole. The Junior Firefighter Program has their own meetings, during which they decide on community projects, charities, and schedule their own training. The kids also participate in the department’s regular business meetings, fundraising activities, and most other aspects of our department.
They are now allowed to train in most areas alongside the senior firefighters, and gain training toward their Level M1 Certification. The main areas that they are not allowed to participate in are live fire and ladders, and this of course will be available in future training. The members of our program attend the Lubbock Area Fire Conference each year, with mandatory training classes in HAZMAT and CPR/AED. Most of their specialized training is conducted by Chris Bruce, who holds a Level M2 Firefighter Certification and Instructor I Certification.
Chief Teeter’s program allows these young people a chance to be a part of live fire scenes. The parents of the kids have the opportunity to sign a permission slip which enables their son or daughter to respond in the truck to a scene. So if there is any empty seat it can be filled by a Junior Firefighter, but they are not allowed to cross the fire line. While behind the line, junior firefighters put their training to use by changing and assisting in filling of air bottles, firefighter rehab, retrieving loose equipment, pulling and rolling hose, and assisting with water supply efforts.
The department is very proud of these kids and the effort and knowledge they show. We have been asked many times by other departments after a fire call, “Who are those kids? They do a great job.” Randy and Chris’ reply is “These young men and women are members of our Junior Firefighter Program and we are training them for the future.” It makes us very proud to discuss our program with other departments, and we are always available to answer questions pertaining to the start up and maintenance of this type of program.
Throughout the school year we offer an internship in conjunction with New Deal High School. This internship allows the Junior Firefighters who are seniors to choose an area of fire service and create a project from it. The project is then displayed at the High School Awards Banquet, during which time we are given the opportunity to announce our scholarship recipients. The community involvement has been a large part of our program. Each summer the program members, along with Chris Bruce, assist with the city-wide cleanup in our community. Chris and his kids, as he generally refers to them, use a truck and trailer and move their way throughout the community to assist the elderly and shut-ins collecting unwanted items and transport them to the drop-off site. It is a very hot and exhausting day, but the kids gain a good feeling assisting their community.
In the summer of 2010, Chris and his kids assisted a neighbor with cleaning up his property, since he was physically unable. They worked approximately 9 hrs that day, but were rewarded with soft drinks and lunch, and had smiles on their faces knowing they helped someone in need. The area of community involvement is something that Chris emphasizes to all members of his program. Always be proud of the community you live in; your involvement can make it a better place.
The year of 2011 was a very exciting time for the program as we inducted 2 honorary members. The first member being Sensei Sekiguchi Takaaki, who is a true samurai from Japan. We were honored with his visit and interest in our program. The Junior Firefighters demonstrated different aspects which they had learned and also assisted Sensei in donning turnout gear along with an air pack. This was a memorable day for them. The second honorary member was a 13-year-old young man from our community. This young man had a lot of interest in the program, but unfortunately had been diagnosed with leukemia and was unable to be a full member. A fundraiser was held by the program to assist with medical expenses. These honorary memberships were decided upon by Chris and the members of the program.
During the summer of 2012, Chris and the Junior Firefighter Program competed in the Panhandle Firefighters Association Challenge in Amarillo, Texas. We placed 3 teams in the hose relay event and placed 4th, and one team place 6th in the adult bucket brigade. This was a great stepping stone for these young people as this was their first competition. Chris was extremely proud of his teams and the showing that was made. He teaches that it is not what place you get, it’s whether you put forth your best effort and work as a team. We look forward to future competitions.
Since 2008, The New Deal Fire/EMS Junior Firefighter Program has promoted 3 young men to full membership within our department. These young men are Ignacio Gonzales, Tyler Johnson, and Mark Blanco. Johnson is currently enrolled in the Wolfforth Fire Academy to become a professional firefighter. Mark Blanco successfully passed the EMT-B class at the age of 17. The class was taught by Chief Teeter EMT-P. Blanco now has his state and national certifications, and is currently enrolled in the Paramedic Program.
Chris takes pride not only in New Deal Fire/EMS, but fire service as a whole. He is very proud of the Junior Firefighter Program, each and every member, Chris’s two daughters are active junior firefighters and his wife serves as a Paramedic on the department. Chris, along with the assistance of other firefighters, spends numerous hours in program development, classroom instruction, and hands on training with the young men and women that make up his program. You can obtain information or contact Chris about our Junior Firefighter Program from our website www.newdealfiredept.org/. The young people of our community are our future, and we are very fortunate to have this program in place.
~ By Chris Bruce, New Deal Texas Firefighter and Junior Firefighter Supervisor