Junior firefighter program approved in Murfreesboro

Published 4:50 pm Friday, November 5, 2021

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MURFREESBORO – With a unanimous approval from the Murfreesboro Town Council, the town’s volunteer fire department will now be able to add a junior firefighter program.

The vote of approval came during the council’s Oct. 13 meeting, though Fire Chief Jeremy Brittenham first presented the proposal for consideration at a meeting in September. He explained that the program would allow them to get more people involved at a younger age to learn what firefighters do, especially at a time when it’s increasingly difficult to find people to volunteer.

He said the program would be beneficial to the town as well as those who choose to participate. He also mentioned an example of former Chowan students who volunteered with the department and then later took those skills back home and continued to work as firefighters.

“This is definitely a good way to get some people in and get them trained,” Brittenham said in September.

There are several other local fire departments who operate junior programs, he added.

In his original proposal, Brittenham suggested the junior firefighters be limited to 16- and 17-year-olds with a cap of five people total. But after doing further research on what the fire department’s insurance policy will cover, he adjusted his request to also include 14- and 15-year-olds and raise the cap to 12 people.

Brittenham submitted for consideration North Carolina’s junior firefighter and rescuer standards, which regulates what junior members are allowed or not allowed to do with the department.

General guidelines for all junior members include not entering or performing ventilation procedures on a burning structure, not driving department vehicles, and not being substituted for trained personal. They are also required to wear appropriate personal protective equipment, and be clearly marked as junior members during events.

The standards include additional regulations by age group.

Junior members in the 16- and 17-year-old group are allowed to ride in a fire truck or rescue vehicle (with seat belt securely fastened), can take part in supervised training, can pick up hoses and other materials at an emergency scene after it has been declared safe, can enter a structure accompanied by an adult responder only after it has been deemed safe, can perform search and rescue activities, and more.

They are not, however, allowed to do work in areas that are deemed immediately dangerous to life or health, respond to hazardous materials events, direct traffic at the scene of an emergency, or train on department equipment without supervision of an instructor.

The 14- and 15-year-old members are subject to the same guidelines but with a few additional restrictions. They are not allowed to perform any hazardous duties at the fire station, ride in the cab of the fire apparatus responding to an emergency scene, or stand on any fire apparatus at anytime it is in motion.

The town council tabled a vote on the proposal at their September meetings, first to ensure the insurance policy could cover junior members, and then a second time to make sure they did not need to add anything town-specific to the state standards.

But each member of the council remained supportive of the idea from the start.

“Anything to get young people involved is a great thing,” said Council member Sarah Wallace at a meeting in September.

“With volunteerism, the younger you can get them to see the importance of it, the easier it is to get them involved and to keep them involved,” added Council member Berna Stephens.

Council members Craig Dennis and Jay Revelle provided the motion and second to approve the junior firefighter proposal at the Oct. 13 meeting.