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Written by Mark Jaeger   
Wednesday, 22 February 2017 20:26

Guideline changes proposed to govern duties of future firefighters

Fredonia Fire Chief Brian Weyker is convinced the best way to bring new life into the department is by getting prospective members when they are young.

With that in mind, Weyker presented the guidelines for a Junior Firefighter Program the department hopes to expand.

The program is open to boys and girls between the ages of 15 and 18 who are interested in helping the fire department and possibly becoming firefighters in the future.

Program participants are expected to maintain a grade-point average of at least 2.0 and follow a code of conduct.

Weyker told the Village Board the department currently has five teens involved with the Explorer program with two “waiting in the wings,” but by rewriting the guidelines the unit would no longer fall under the Boy Scouts of America restriction of having at least five members.

“If we fall below five members, we can no longer call it an Explorer program,” he explained.

“I would rather be able to have a program with two or three kids, with the possibility that more might join.”

According to the guidelines, there would be no minimum number of junior firefighters, but program membership would be capped at 10.

“As a junior firefighter, members serve in a support role for the senior firefighters at actual emergencies as a supplement to a formal training program,” the guidelines state.

Unit members work with an assigned training officer, and can be assigned such duties as helping establish a water supply, supplying equipment to firefighters and changing air packs.

“It should be understood, however, that despite the training and supervision provided, firefighting is a dangerous activity and serious injury is a possibility,” the guidelines state.

“The fire officers will make every effort to minimize the junior firefighters’ exposure to danger. It is also the responsibility of the junior firefighter to avoid known hazardous situations.”

Although the goal of the program is to show prospective firefighters what the job entails, the guidelines include plenty of precautions.

“Under no circumstances is a junior firefighter to enter a burning structure, confine space or underground area, or area subject to collapse hazard,” the guidelines explain.

The permitted duties and responsibilities grows as the young firefighters get older. At age 15, they can attend training drills and educational programs; at 16, they can respond to the fire station during emergency calls; at 17, they are treated almost like full firefighters but are still not allowed to drive vehicles.

It is the risk of firefighter training that resulted in drafting the guidelines, after the village’s liability insurance carrier had a problem with allowing minors to be placed at risk.

To get around the insurance company’s objections, Weyker asked trustees if the junior firefighters could be considered employees, covered under the village’s general liability insurance, if they abide by the guidelines.

The board asked that the rules be forwarded to the village attorney before taking any action.

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