Last month Willingboro Fire Department held its 4th annual Youth Fire Academy. Lt. Reed Costello was the lead instructor, with Firefighters Ron Priest and Bryan Riley serving as Instructors. Fire Fighter / EMT Robert Rosario volunteered a lot of his time and handled any medical issues that the cadets came down with. Fire Fighter Charles Sanderson, a 3 time graduate of the YFA, came back to serve as a Peer Mentor. 11 cadets graduated from the program which ran from July 10 – July 21.
They received classroom and hands on instruction on Personal Protective Equipment, Self Contained Breathing Apparatus, hose lines and nozzles, searching, forcible entry, ladders, ropes and knots, vehicle extrication, and Rapid Intervention Crew. The cadets underwent many of the same drills that firefighter trainees participate in at full-time fire academies across the country. Fitness evolutions took place in the afternoons and the cadets were challenged both physically and mentally.
The cadets went on a day trip to the pine barrens and spent time with representatives from the NJ Forest Fire service. They climbed the highest fire tower in the state at 125 feet, they dug fire line, practiced using a fire shelter and got a tour of aircraft that are used in wildland fire suppression. They also did a trip to the US Coast Guard base in Cape May where they met with fire fighters and got a tour of their station, vehicles and equipment. They then got a tour of the USCG Cutter Rollin Fritch and learned how they fight fires when they are alone, hundreds of miles off the coast. They also spent a day at the Burlington County ESTC and went through the smoke house and got to rappel off the high rise building.
On the day before graduation they went to New Your City and spent the morning at the 9/11 museum. The cadets were given an assignment the first week of the academy: to choose a New York City firefighter who had perished in the Twin Towers and learn about his background and find his name and / or picture when we visit the museum. Each cadet presented his / her findings to the class the morning of graduation. In the afternoon, the class went up to the Freedom Tower Observatory, 104 stories above the city.
Graduation was held on the afternoon of Friday, July 21st at the Kennedy Center. Family, friends, township officials, and employees showed up to cheer them on and show their support. All graduates received a certificate, a challenge coin, a patch and a gift card for the movies. Great job cadets, enjoy the rest of your summer, you earned it!