Deerfield Fire District launches Junior Firefighter Program

  • Daren Melnik is sworn in as chief of the Deerfield Fire Department in July of 2018. Melnik has now launched the department’s first Junior Firefighter Program. FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 2/1/2021 10:25:44 AM

DEERFIELD — With the creation of its first Junior Firefighter Program, the Deerfield Fire District has the next generation of firefighters in mind.

“It’s a way to get the younger generation of kids in the community involved,” explained Fire Chief Daren Melnik. “But it also gets them active in the fire service for future endeavors ... if they want to stay in the fire services as they get older.”

The new program is open to residents between the ages of 14 and 18 years old, he said. Members of the program will become familiar with the equipment, as well as how the chain of command works in various situations, such as at a structure fire or at the scene of a motor vehicle accident.

Junior firefighters will have their own training nights and will also train once per month with fully certified firefighters, he said. They will be held to the same standards as the firefighters in the department.

“The bulk will be in-house training … but they will also be able to do some hands-on work as far as brush fires,” he said. “They will be able to do ground support at a structure fire — possibly swapping bottles or being an aid to rehab, something of that nature.”

Melnik said planning for the new program began within the last year. It was after speaking with other local junior firefighter programs, including the program at the Conway Fire Department, that he developed the one in Deerfield.

“We thought we would try it and see if we have the same success they do,” Melnik said.

In Conway, the junior firefighter program has been around for roughly 25 years, according to Conway Fire Chief Robert Baker.

“Sixty percent of our regular firefighters were juniors at one time,” he said. “So it’s very beneficial to the department to have a junior squad, because they’re your future firefighters.”

Currently, the Conway Fire Department has nine junior firefighters who train twice per month, Baker said. They also train with the department’s firefighters. And although they’re limited as to what they can do at a fire scene, they act as “an extra set of hands” — getting equipment or changing out air tanks, for example.

“It’s been very, very beneficial over the years,” he said. “They all seem to love it and do great things with it.”

Ultimately, Melnik said, launching the Deerfield Junior Firefighter Program is a way of looking out for the future of the department.

“With the way the times are — departments in rural areas looking for members — this is a way to see if we can get more members involved, starting with a junior program,” Melnik said.

His department is staffed by 15 to 20 volunteer firefighters.

For junior firefighters who do wish to pursue a career in the fire services after 18, they would go through the Massachusetts Firefighting Academy to get their Firefighter 1 and Firefighter 2 training, he explained.

“By starting programs like this,” Melnik said, “we’re looking for the firefighters of tomorrow.”

An informational meeting for interested teenagers is scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 4, at 7 p.m. at the Fire Station on Old Main Street.


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