Youth firefighting groups focus on fun, safety

Published 9:49 am Thursday, September 21, 2017

By Ron Semple

For the Enterprise

Most senior officers of the Advance Fire Department started out as junior firefighters, some as young as sixth graders.

A new class of young people is following in their footsteps and training at Fire House 12 on NC 801 in Advance.

Capt. Ronnie Robertson, who heads up the Junior Firefighter and Cadet programs, said there are spots still open in both programs.

Juniors are recruited from middle school and the first years of high school. Students 16 to 18 can become cadets. After graduating from high school and reaching age 18, volunteers can qualify full-fledged firefighters.

“Firefighting is fun but it’s dangerous,” said Mike Dunn, a onetime professional firefighter as he watched his grandson, Carson Reed signup for the Junior Firefighter program. Carson, 11, is a sixth grader at Ellis Middle School in Advance. His uncle and cousin are professional firefighters.

Robertson agreed. “We work hard to squeeze out any possible danger in our Junior program. Safety is our first priority. Fun comes next,” he said.

Juniors do not answer fire calls and all training is done under the eyes of senior officers at fire stations or other safe venues.

“We don’t expect all our juniors or even our cadets to become volunteer firefighters. Some do, some don’t. We’re doing this as a service to the community.”

Amanda Bilyeu of Mocksville said of her son, Kole Bilyeu: “I like the idea that he  going to learn to give back to the community. He’ll learn new skills and be exposed to discipline while he’s having fun. He certainly enjoyed fire camp.” Kole, 13, is an eighth grader at Ellis Middle School.

Most of the students in Advance’s programs attended the department’s annual Fire Camp.

Braden Finney and Luke Morgan are joining the Cadet program. Braden is in the 10th grade in Davie High School’s Early College program. Luke is a 10th grader at Calvary Day School, Winston-Salem.

Cadets receive more intensive training and answer fire calls. They will fetch tools and replenish air bottles and perform other duties at the fire scene but they do not fight fires.

Robertson said members or both programs have to be enrolled in school and maintain a “C” average. “School comes first,” he said.

The youngsters who meet on at the fire house on the first and third Tuesdays each month will receive training this semester on: hose and nozzles; fire anatomy and flashover; pump operations; extrication equipment; apparatus equipment; self-contained breathing apparatus; CPR and first aid.

Other members of the program include: Elena Lopez, 14, ninth grade, Davie High School; Rachel Dove, 14, ninth grade, Davie High School Early College; Chandler Allen, 13, seventh grade, Ellis Middle School; Garrett Todd, 12, Ellis Middle School; Ashton Cox, 13, eighth grade, North Davie Middle School and Vance Visser, 13, eighth grade, Union Grove School.

Instructors include: Robertson; Andrea Brooks Stewart; Rick Hockaday; Robbie Fox; Josh Collins; Jerry Meyrs and Tony Collins.

Refreshments were served to the youngsters at the organizational meeting by the Advance Fire Department Auxiliary.