ALAINA CROWELL & JULIA WALKER
Stop drop and roll. Never leave a stove unattended when it is on. Remember where your family keeps your fire extinguisher.
There are sets for rules that are commonly known when it comes to preventing fires. But a select group of ELHS students who volunteer at the Flanders and Niantic Fire Departments have to understand fire safety at a far more detailed level.
A total of 14 students are currently volunteering between the two departments, primarily focusing on team skills and leadership. Each student begins as a Junior Auxiliary member, where they learn state rules and regulations and how to respond to emergency calls. Once students are certified to respond to emergency medical situations, they can respond to structure fires (house emergencies), car wrecks, or state park or campsite accidents.
” Our jobs as firefighters is to protect human life at all costs, and it’s nice to be apart of that to get a job done,” said senior Hannah Miller, who has been volunteering at the Niantic Fire Department for three and a half years.
On July 9, seniors Liam Kennedy, Hannah Miller, and Nick Kupis responded to a fire on a working structure. There are currently more state rules and regulations for the fire departments, but their end goal is always the same: to help others.
“I joined this fire company when I was 15 years old. It’s a thrill,” said Ed Waido, who has been with the Flanders Fire Department for 50 years, and has been a career firefighter for 21 years. “The most important part is you know you’re helping people. You’re not just there because you like seeing fire trucks or you like fires. I don’t like to see anyone getting hurt. I’ve seen a lot of bad things in my time, really bad things.”
Waido described how many firefighters experience Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, nightmares and mental health troubles that come with responding to these emergencies. A part of training new volunteers is helping them cope with these experiences.
“The hardest part by far is all the physical labor even as an exterior junior. The heat, the freezing cold, blister brushing the back of your heels while sweat drips down your back. Hauling tools, ladders, hose lines to wherever they need to go,” said Miller.
Above the difficulties of being a volunteer firefighter, sources emphasized the importance of passion: “Being a newly-licensed EMT and being down [at the firehouse] as often as I can, it’s easy to forget about how different it is for kids our age. I always dreamed of helping people as much as I could,” said senior Liam Kennedy.
Kennedy also mentioned how recognition of sacrifice is monumental.
“Being able to say that you saved someone is 10 times more rewarding than any dollar amount. That sacrifice that fire responders make is what makes their job so admirable,” said Kennedy.