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Junior firefighters learn ropes in Turners Falls

Program looks to serve as feeder into the call force

Recorder Chris Curtis
Firefighter Trisha Mieczkowski shows students Joshua Call, Cooper Grace, Lance Hansen and Jordan Cardaropoli where to find some of the tools they will use if they continue their training and choose to find work as firefighters.

Recorder Chris Curtis Firefighter Trisha Mieczkowski shows students Joshua Call, Cooper Grace, Lance Hansen and Jordan Cardaropoli where to find some of the tools they will use if they continue their training and choose to find work as firefighters. Purchase photo reprints »

TURNERS FALLS — Four aspiring firefighters sat in Turners Falls fire station for an hour-long slide presentation Tuesday evening.

The four, a Greenfield middle-schooler and three Franklin Technical School students, invest a couple of hours twice a month toward the eventual dream of work as firefighters.

Intended as a feeder for the department’s call force, the Turners Falls junior firefighter program is a recent addition to the list of similar programs scattered around the county.

This particular class began with a slide-show overview of the equipment used by firefighters, from hammers and wrenches to pneumatic shears.

The students took notes as firefighter Trisha Mieczkowski presented the array of tools available to firefighters, a first step in a repetitive training process to incorporate use of the various cutting, prying and smashing tools into muscle-memory.

A sign over the doorway leading from the meeting room to the garage bears the popular first-responder job description “hours of boredom — moments of terror.”

Mieczkowski promised the four students training will get more exciting.

The students agreed the two Tuesday evenings a month are worth it, and hope to eventually work as firefighters.

“Just to know that I’m helping people save something that’s theirs,” said Joshua Call, describing the attraction of the profession.

“And lives,” added classmate Lance Hansen.

The four range in age from 14 to 16, so all have some time before they meet the 18-year-old age minimum to be hired for the call force, part of the idea behind the program. “Our hope was to start bringing in younger individuals through this program,” said Capt. John Zellman. “Find out if they like it and then transition into the call force.”

Experience and training on the reserve force puts members in a stronger position to apply for a full-time job.

After an hour or so of pictures, Mieczkowski took the class into the garage for a look at the real thing, sorting through the nearly endless assortment of tool and control compartments hidden by sliding panels and cupboard doors on the trucks.

The fathers of two of the students follow.

David Call, a Turners Falls resident, said he was with the Colrain Fire Department in the 1980s but the job has changed since then and the class helps to reintroduce him to the equipment.

Call also sees the classes as a good way to spend time with his son.

“It’s just a lot of fun to get involved, in something like this especially,” he said.

Call and another father, Larry Hansen of Leverett, both praised the program as a thorough introduction to the profession, and neither worry over the potentially dangerous career choice.

“The way they’re training them, they’re top-notch,” said Call. “Before they touch anything hot they’re going to know what to do.”

Safety regulations keep the young trainees well back from fire, but in the meantime they are allowed and encouraged to watch.

Mieczkowski, who teaches the class on a monthly rotation, said the training program is very repetitive, cycling through the same lessons until the training becomes muscle-memory.

“Then it becomes a little more in-depth until they’re a part of this little family,” said Mieczkowski, herself a recent addition to the full-time force after 10 years on the call force.

The program is geared toward 14- to 18-year-olds and, due to the repetitive nature of the program, which has no set time limit but ends when the trainee is old enough to move on, Mieczkowski said new members are welcome to apply at the Public Safety Complex on Turnpike Road.

You can reach Chris Curtis at:

ccurtis@recorder.com

or 413-772-0261, ext. 257

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