Thursday March 28, 2013 | By:Felice E. Krycia-associate editor | News
Members of the Hamburg Junior Fire Department take a break from their training meeting. Pictured from left, first row: Enza Collana, Steven Skutnik,Colton Kowalczyk andTimothy Hoff. Second row: Dan Hoelscher, Captain Marc Schmid, Tom Moses, David O’Brien, Will Reczek, Vice President Howie Hoelscher and Alec Duffy. Third row: Chief Jesse Schmid and President Brendan Moses. Missing from the photo are: Jordan Manning, Nick Manning, Heather Haberman, Miriam Hoelscher, Secretary Connor Moses and Shaun Lunz.
In the Village of Hamburg it is not unusual to see teenagers dressed in Hamburg Fire Department firefighter gear lending a hand.
These teens, ranging in age from 12 to 17, are members of the Hamburg Junior Fire Department, a viable part of the Hamburg Fire Department.
Run under the watchful eye of members of the Hamburg Volunteer Fire Department, this group of young volunteers is learning what it takes to be a full-fledged member of the firefighting team.
According to Beth Moses, a member and officer of the department as well as a paramedic/trauma nurse and one of the advisors of the program, the groundwork for the junior fire fighters was started by Robert “Bob” Newell prior to his death in January 2008.
“He was so active with the department in many aspects and loved teaching,” she said. “He saw many of the department’s members had children who were hanging around the fire hall and were interested in what their parents were doing.
“We looked at doing the Explores Program but many of our kids were becoming of an age that they really wanted to be more actively involved in the department,” Moses said.
By September 2009, the Hamburg Junior Fire Department was a reality, meeting twice a month throughout the year.
“We started off with 10 members and there was such overwhelming interest we quickly expanded to the maximum 20,” Moses said.
Moses went on to explain the 20 member limit is set because it takes time to rotate through the training and if you have too many people, there is too much waiting around time.
“We want all the members to get the most out of the training experiences. You don’t get that if you are just waiting around,” she said.
This group is not just for the children of the Hamburg Volunteer Fire Department. There are members from neighboring fire districts and others who live in other towns.
According to Moses, they are the only local fire department which offers this type of program.
They are trained on search and rescue, hooking up hoses to hydrants and handling the hoses, work with the aerial ladders, train with the equipment, learn CPR and do some EMS training. They do not participate in live burns/fires and are not permitted to be in real smoke conditions, though they can be on the sidelines of a call.
“At 16, they can take Firefighting 1 Class, (a 13 week course which meets twice a week and some weekends) which is set up by the county,” she said. “This is real firematic training and will help them when they join a fire department as an adult (age 18 or older).
Moses added there has been very little loss of membership in the program and the one member who turned 18 did join a local fire department.
“This is something I have wanted to do all my life,” said Jesse Schmid, 16, of Hamburg, who was elected as chief to the group in January. “My father and sister are members of Armor Volunteer Fire Company but they don’t have anything like this.
“I’ve been involved with this since it first started and I really like what we do.
“When I turn 18 I will definitely be joining the Armor Fire Company, since that is where I live and my family are members. I’d be the last one to the call if I became a member here.”
For Eden resident Howard “Howie” Hoelscher, Jr.,15, he was interested in joining the fire department before his father did.
“I’ve always been interested in what the firefighters do and I’ve always wanted to learn how to operate the equipment,” Hoelscher said.
The Hamburg Fire Department is a real family affair now with his father, his uncle (Village Police Lt. Kevin Haberman) and his cousin Heather Haberman are members. Hoelscher is vice president of the Junior Firefighters and his brother Dan, 14 and sister Miriam, 12 are also members.
“This is important to me and I will take the Firefighter 1 class when I’m 16. I plan on continuing the training and joining the department when I turn 18,” he said.
The members adhere to a strict code of conduct, which included no foul language, no harassment or bullying, they must be respectful to all people, property, emergency services and community and there are no electronic devices are allowed at the training sessions and meetings.
They assist in programs run by the fire department, such as fire prevention displays at the Erie County Fair, participate in department fundraisers, help with the Advent Castle and Lighting of the Star, assist with the annual “Ball Drop,” park cars at events and other projects within the village.
“We have a great group of kids here, who work hard and are dedicated,” Advisor Harland Moses said.
“The Junior Fire Department has far exceeded anyone expectations nad I’m so glad we have this program to offer our youth,” Moses said.