Colrain Junior Firefighters program, relaunching April 6, seeks recruits

  • Lt. Jim Martin of the Colrain Fire Department is recruiting teens between the ages of 14 and 18 years old for the department’s Junior Firefighters program, which will relaunch on April 6. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

  • The Colrain Fire Station at 51 Main Road in Colrain. Staff Photo/Paul Franz

Staff Writer
Published: 3/29/2021 6:28:38 PM

COLRAIN — After shutting down its Junior Firefighters training program last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Colrain Fire Department is relaunching the program on April 6, and is still accepting recruits.

Anyone between the ages of 14 and 18 years old who lives in Colrain or one of the surrounding towns and would like to learn more about firefighting is encouraged to sign up by emailing Colrain Fire Lt. Jim Martin at 8med13@live.com. The junior firefighters train on the first Tuesday of each month, and also conduct training with the Fire Department when possible to learn the skills required for fire/rescue and EMS response.

Last year, Martin said, the program was unable to accept any new recruits, and any of the teenage participants already enrolled in the Junior Firefighters program were unable to come to the station or participate in the usual activity. This year, he said a couple of returning participants will be joined by, as of March 25, six new recruits.

“We’re always looking for more,” Martin said. “Once they’re 18, if they stay in the area, they can become our next generation of firefighters.”

The Colrain Fire Department is a “good-size” department comprised of roughly 30 members, most of whom are also trained EMTs. According to Martin, the Junior Firefighters program has a successful retention rate, with about 40 percent of Colrain’s adult firefighters having participated in the program when they were younger.

Martin has been with the Colrain Fire Department for 20 years, but did not come up through the Junior Firefighters program himself. However, his son, Colby Martin, did participate in the program and now serves on the Fire Department alongside his father.

Training activities include regular fire drills; pump training to collect water from ponds or rivers into holding tanks or firetrucks; practicing putting out permitted brush burning; and practicing extracting patients from vehicles. Junior members may also assist at the scene of live fires, helping to change firefighters’ air tanks, but they aren’t allowed into structure fires until they are 18 years old and receive more training.

Participating in the program, Martin said, gives the recruits anywhere from one to three years of training to prepare for a career in firefighting and emergency response. Martin said about half of the recruits join for all four years. While there is still required training after turning 18, Martin said training in the Junior Firefighters program, even if just for a year or two, “puts you that much further ahead” in preparing for a career in firefighting.

“I found out last night one person who participated (in the junior program) is moving out west to be a wildland firefighter,” Martin said. “This can lead to full-time stuff.”

In addition to the regular training to teach the teenagers the responsibilities and skills of being a first responder, the program tries to include fun activities or trips as a group. Just before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, members took a trip to New York City to visit the 9/11 museum.

Looking ahead through 2021, Martin said he is confident the program will be able to conduct most of its normal activities, and operate outside as needed now that the weather is warming up.

Zack DeLuca can be reached at zdeluca@recorder.com or 413-930-4579.

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