The 60 youths who attended the sixth annual Junior Fire Training Day yesterday came away with more than just a lesson on how to fight a fire.
After the first instruction -- "learn everything you can" -- they went through five "stations" at the Carroll County Fire Training Center in Westminster.
"We try to keep it active for them to keep their interest," said senior member trainer Mike Moser of New Windsor Fire & Hose Company No. 1.
"They come in and the first thing they see is us riding the engine, but they don't really know what it's about," Moser said. "We bring them in from ground zero -- they learn what a hose line is and a heart monitor, and all the other [things]."
The youths practiced donning turnout gear -- boots, pants, coat, hood, helmet and gloves. They crawled through a totally dark maze and through pipes.
They used the "jaws of life" to pry open a car door, smashed car windows and peeled off car roofs. They climbed up and down Westminster's Tower 3 ladder to the bucket, then stood and gazed down at their peers watching anxiously on the ground.
Teams took a hose line into the practice burn building to search for victims, successfully dragging a man out to safety. Afterward, they collapsed on the ground, exhausted and sweating.
Through it all, they learned the paramount lessons of firefighting: safety, communication, teamwork and staying alive.
Carroll County's fire companies are all volunteer, though most stations hire paid Emergency Medical Services personnel to staff their ambulance and some use paid fire engine drivers through the weekdays.
Eleven Carroll County fire companies have a junior fire department program, mostly for youths 12 to 18, though some stations let trained youths join the company as an adult at 16.
The companies offer monthly meetings and training sessions in various aspects of firefighting and emergency medical services. Youths are encouraged to help around the firehouse and may go out on calls to watch the firefighters work and to help clean up afterward.
The junior program serves two main purposes, according to Robin Lamb, chairwoman of the county program.
"It keeps the interest in the volunteer program and keeps the companies in manpower," said Lamb, a volunteer at Winfield Community Volunteer Fire Department.
For a number of juniors, joining the fire department is family tradition. Jeff Lowman, 18, is one of them. He is fourth generation at Mount Airy Volunteer Fire Company and son of the current fire chief, Dale Lowman.
"It was there, I knew about it, it was family tradition," said Lowman, who this year is no longer a junior but an instructor. "I like it because I can help and give back to the community."
It's the same for Richard Green Jr., 18, whose family helped found the Gamber & Community Volunteer Fire Company in 1965. His father, Ron Green, is fire chief; his great uncle, Calvin Brothers, is president.
"I've been around it all my life, it's like second nature," Richard Green said as he lost track trying to number his fire department relatives.
Ron Green and his five brothers all at one time belonged to Gamber's department, and his mother helped start the Ladies Auxiliary. Four brothers are still active, he said, and he's already looking forward to his other children -- ages 3, 7 and 10 -- joining when they become older.
Among the hundreds of volunteer firefighters in Carroll County, some family names are prominent. That list includes: the Ruch family of Sykesville; the Legore and Warner families of Winfield; the Green and Brothers families of Gamber; the Lowman family of Mount Airy; the Blacksten, Lease, Fritz, Petrey and Kreimer families of New Windsor; and the Alexander, Plunkert and Bangerd families of Westminster.
In the last couple of decades, women have started joining the fire service, too.
Christine Clarius, 16, is a third year junior member at New Windsor. When she first joined, she was the only girl in the program. She took some teasing, but proved herself and is now the group's president.
"I read in the paper where they needed members and you could get community service hours, and I needed that," she said. "Then after the first year I realized I could do this for a living."
Christine plans to take the Emergency Medical Technician training through the Career and Technology Center, go to community college and train as a nurse and "work my way up," she said.
Anne Marie Histon got started at Mount Airy by winning that company's Fire Prevention queen contest, going on to win the state title in Ocean City in June.
"I was asked to join the fire company [juniors] to learn more about what firefighters do," she said. "I want to teach fire prevention, and in order to teach it, you need to know what they really do."
Speed is essential in firefighting, and some training stations were timed.
The winners were: donning of the gear, Mount Airy, Westminster, Gamber; maze, Gamber, Winfield, Manchester; search and rescue, Winfield, Mount Airy, Gamber.
After training, it was time for fun.
Companies teamed up against each other in three competitions. The winners were: hose hook up, Manchester, Gamber, Mount Airy; bucket brigade, Mount Airy, Sykesville, Manchester; battle of the bucket, Manchester, Gamber, Sykesville.
Best overall for the six competitive events: Gamber, Mount Airy, Manchester.
Pub Date: 9/19/99