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First junior fire cadet academy in Chicora a success

Tyler Blair, with Bruin Fire Department, learns how to shoot water during training at the Junior Fire Cadet Program at Chicora Volunteer Fire Department on Tuesday, July 9, 2024. Justin Guido/Special to the Eagle

CHICORA — The high temperature Tuesday afternoon, July 9, was just a primer for what the 10 students enrolled as fire cadets at Chicora Volunteer Fire Department were training for.

The fire department is hosting a week-long training camp for students ages 14 to 18, where they will learn the “basics of firefighting.” On Tuesday, day two of the camp, firefighters led the students in ropes training and forcible entry exercises, which was a new experience for most of the teens enrolled.

“We’re covering everything from engine company, truck company operations; ropes; forcible entry; vehicle rescue; we’ll be doing pumping and stuff like that,” said Derek Thompson, emergency medical services and continuing education specialist at Butler County Community College. “We’re trying to hit small portions of all aspects of firefighting.”

This is the first time the Chicora fire department is hosting a training camp for cadets; an initiative made possible by a $3,000 grant from BC3. According to Thompson, the grant paid for equipment and food and drink for all the students involved, but every mentor helping at the camp was volunteering their time to train the next generation of firefighters.

Thompson said all 10 of the students enrolled lived within the service area of Chicora or its mutual aid departments. Additionally, fire chiefs from around the county, including Butler Township Volunteer Fire District and Unionville Volunteer Fire Company, would give lessons at the camp throughout the week.

Seth Miller, ladder captain for Chicora Volunteer Fire Company, was helping out Tuesday, and said his department and three others — Petrolia, Bruin and Sugarcreek — allow teenagers to ride with them as cadets.

“Starting at 14, you can join the fire departments here; all the chiefs pretty much come up with training ideas,” Miller said. “We have a cadet program we run between Chicora, Petrolia, Bruin and Sugarcreek fire departments, so all the juniors usually meet at one of the departments.”

The camp days alternated between lessons at BC3’s main campus in Butler Township and the training area in Chicora. According to Thompson, the students would work with a lot of professional-level training equipment during their days at BC3.

After students learned how to breach a jammed door Tuesday, Thompson commented on their willingness to participate in training exercises that for most of them were brand new experiences.

Thompson also said the Chicora department came up with the idea to host the camp, and BC3 offered the grant funding. Other communities around Butler County, namely Cranberry Township, offer firefighter training programs for teens, but Thompson said that was too far for teens to travel for a five-day camp.

While this is the first year Chicora is offering the training camp, Thompson and Miller agreed it could be brought back next year if interest from local teenagers remains.

“We’ll probably run it annually, if we can keep up the participants,” Miller said.

Colby Kutch, with West Hills Fire Department, trains how to shoot water on a burning building during training at the Junior Fire Cadet Program at Chicora Volunteer Fire Department on Tuesday, July 9, 2024. Justin Guido/Special to the Eagle
Kolby Blair, with the Bruin Fire Department, left, Eric Anthony, with Chicora Fire Department, center, and Colby Kutch, with West Hills Fire Department, lower a hose during training at the Junior Fire Cadet Program at Chicora Volunteer Fire Department on Tuesday, July 9, 2024. Justin Guido/Special to the Eagle
Noah Pallas, with West Sunbury Fire Department, learns how to shoot water during training at the Junior Fire Cadet Program at Chicora Volunteer Fire Department on Tuesday, July 9, 2024. Justin Guido/Special to the Eagle
Blake Bowser, with the Washington Township Fire Department, cools down with a cold drink at the Junior Fire Cadet Program at Chicora Volunteer Fire Department on Tuesday, July 9, 2024. Justin Guido/Special to the Eagle
Eric Anthony, with Chicora Fire Department, lowers a ladder from the tower during training at the Junior Fire Cadet Program at Chicora Volunteer Fire Department on Tuesday, July 9, 2024. Justin Guido/Special to the Eagle
Eric Anthony, with Chicora Volunteer Fire Department, learns how to shoot water during training at the Junior Fire Cadet Program at Chicora Volunteer Fire Department on Tuesday, July 9, 2024. Justin Guido/Special to the Eagle
Derek Thompson, a BC3 emergency medical services specialist and the project’s supervisor, shows cadets the proper way to get a door open during a fire during training at the Junior Fire Cadet Program at Chicora Volunteer Fire Department on Tuesday, July 9, 2024. Justin Guido/Special to the Eagle
Kolby Blair, with the Bruin Fire Department, ties a rope to a ladder so it can be lifted up during training at the Junior Fire Cadet Program at Chicora Volunteer Fire Department on Tuesday, July 9, 2024. Justin Guido/Special to the Eagle
Blake Bowser, with the Washington Township Fire Department, uses an ax to open a door during training at the Junior Fire Cadet Program at Chicora Volunteer Fire Department on Tuesday, July 9. Justin Guido/Special to the Eagle

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