Training day sparks enthusiasm among junior firefighters Annual Westminster event teaches safety skills, simulates emergencies


Junior firefighter Josh Spicer fidgeted beside a Sykesville fire engine, nervous about climbing the truck's 75-foot ladder, extended to the top floor of a three-story tower.

"It's OK until you get to the middle, when it starts bouncing," the 15-year-old said.

Josh, a member of Manchester Fire Engine & Hook & Ladder Company, was one of 78 youths -- 12 to 16 years old -- who attended Saturday's fourth annual junior training day at the Fire Training Center in Westminster.

Asked if he has ever panicked during a climb -- one of several training exercises at the event -- Josh said: "No, never, you never panic at anything you do in a fire."

The daylong event featured various training stations, including auto extrication, ladders, firefighting, search and rescue in a fire, overland rappelling and a maze.


"It's nice because the kids come here and get all the hands-on training at one place," said Robin Lamb, chairman of the county Junior Fire Department.

Every Carroll County fire company except Reese has a junior fire department. Most companies take youths at age 12.

Companies offer monthly meetings and drills or training for the youths, who are expected to help around the firehouse in other capacities, such as fund-raising.

Juniors also learn by observing real calls and helping clean up afterward.

Grueling exercises

Justin Barrett, 12, joined New Windsor's juniors Thursday night, so everything was new Saturday.

Justin said the most difficult exercise was rappelling a slope backward.

"Getting down is hard because you have to push with your legs," he said. "My legs hurt."

Most youths declared a maze the most fun, but also the most difficult training exercise. Dressed in full gear, including air tank, students go through an enclosed, dark maze filled with twists, turns, doors, windows, steps and drop-offs.

Two teams got bunched together in the maze, and Mike Lane of Sykesville fell down steps and landed atop a teammate.

"He landed on me, so I broke his fall," said Jeff Lowman of Mount Airy, laughing.

In the burn building, a two-story structure used to simulate fires, youths took a hose upstairs to a second floor where they searched two rooms to put out a simulated fire. They also practiced methods of showering a fire with water.

Skills training

"The main thing is to get them used to communication skills -- they need to tell each other what they're doing," said Kevin Warner of the Winfield Community Volunteer Fire Department. Warner taught the youths how to properly enter a burning building.

Safety was the main thrust of the training. Senior instructors at every station stressed proper gear, care of equipment, correct use of tools and legalities on medical calls.

Cooperation is especially important in firefighting, and the training gives youths from all over Carroll a chance to meet.

"If you can get these kids to know each other and be able to work together, then it makes it easier for them to work together as mutual aid companies," said Mary Lamb, who helps her husband, Robin, coordinate the training day.

In a county with volunteer fire service, new members are always needed.

"It's important that we spark their interest and keep supplying new people to the stations," Robin Lamb said.

Program advantages

The junior program has advantages that vary from station to station.

At New Windsor, Welker said, youths can join as senior members at age 17 instead of 18 if they have completed the training program.

"This is the perfect way to get into the fire department," Mary Lamb said. "By getting the training early, it's easier for them to move into a paid position later on."

A number of Carroll's volunteers are career firefighters in nearby jurisdictions. Most of Carroll's stations hire ambulance personnel and/or engine drivers because of a volunteer shortage and members being unavailable to answer weekday calls.

The junior training also brings together senior members in a spirit of cooperation. Six companies brought equipment, and the Gamber Ladies Auxiliary provided breakfast and lunch.

Contest winners

After training was completed, it was time for fun. Youths competed in a "battle of the bucket" and several timed exercises.

The winners were:

Battle of the bucket: Lineboro, first; Westminster, second; New Windsor, third.

Hose hook-up to hydrant and extinguish a fire: Westminster, first; Manchester, second; Sykesville, third.

Donning of gear: Gamber, first; Winfield, second; Mount Airy, third.

Maze: (overall), Winfield, first; Gamber, second; Manchester, third. In the individual maze event, Winfield's Kenny Johns had the fastest time. In the team competition, Gamber's Nick Thompson and Ritchie Green took first place.

Pub Date: 9/16/97

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