The Connecticut Fire Academy’s Introduction to the Fire Service is no ordinary youth summer program.
Thirty-two teenagers from around Connecticut have been at the academy this week, learning critical firefighting elements.
“The program is really about teamwork, respect and responsibility,” explained Connecticut Fire Academy Program Planner Alan Zygmunt.
The Academy’s Introduction to the Fire Service is an immersive residential program designed to provide teenagers between the ages of 14 and 17 an opportunity to explore the industry.
“It is a very intense program,” explained lead instructor Shannon McFadden. “They come on Monday morning and they do not leave until after their graduation on Saturday.”
As intense as it might be, these kids – many who are already part of fire department’s youth programs - aren’t complaining.
“It’s really fun,” said Rachel Barbagallo, of Norfolk. “You get to experience a lot of new equipment and techniques.”
Aiden Mardis-Richard of Woodbridge agreed. He said there are a lot of things they can do in this program that are not allowed at their home station. “With ladders, we can’t go over 6 feet, but here that doesn’t apply,” he said, “so we can go up through the windows and up into the buildings.”
The seven day experience takes these cadets through various stations and offers instruction and valuable hands-on experience.
“I’ve gotten a lot better at knot tying. I’ve worked more with ladders and things. We’re about to go work with hoses. Those are kind of my weak points so I’m glad to be working on those,” added Mardis-Richard.
The firefighting industry is also benefiting as a new crop of talent is developed, perhaps helping fill a void created by a shortage of firefighters.
“There’s just a chance that there’s gonna be more and more of them and they’re gonna be more educated so that they can jump right in and be able to be an asset to the different departments around the state,” said McFadden.
According to the Connecticut Fire Academy, graduation from this particular course nearly guarantees these cadets a job opportunity once they turn 18.