continued “They can change our air packs, get us equipment, give us water,” Watts said. “They can be a big help.”
“They help us out a lot,” Burns said of the teens. “And we enjoy having them around. They have an enthusiasm that’s contagious. I believe they lift the morale of the entire department.”
Chris Stonitsch agrees.
“They have a lot enthusiasm,” he said. “They’re all excited to be part of the department. I think that rubs off on the rest of us.”
The youth corps can also raise money. Members conducted their own fundraiser and purchased their own helmets.
The group recently went to a training session sponsored by the Firemen’s Association of the State of New York in Watertown. Members spent the morning participating in drills and the afternoon in a classroom setting.
The youth firefighters say they’re learning a lot and enjoying the experience.
“It’s not as easy as it looks,” Sommerville said of firefighting. “It’s a lot of work.”
“I’ve learned what it means to be a volunteer, what it means to help your community,” Gonyo said. “It’s a lot more than breaking down a burning wall.”
All the youth members have completed cardiopulmonary resuscitation and defibrillator training.
“It’s a good feeling to know that you might be able to help someone,” the younger Watts said.
Crowe recently carried an adult firefighter, twice his weight, down a ladder during a training exercise. He said he enjoys the banter between firefighters.
“I like being here,” he said.
Besides learning firefighting skills, Burns hopes the youth members are gaining other benefits.
“I hope we teach more than firefighting,” he said. “We provide a safe environment for these kids and, hopefully, set a good example for them. If they have any problems they can go to one of the advisers.”
The youth corps drills along side Ti firefighters each Tuesday at 6 p.m. at the fire house. Interested teens can attend a training session of call a member of the department.