The cadets of the 2019 Youth Fire Academy ended this year's program with a busy week. The week was filled with new and refresher training, and a visit to New York City. Heat and humidity did not keep the cadets from learning. As with any situation in the fire service, the group adapted to the conditions, and continued to complete their training mission for the day.
Monday was a day full of specialized training for the cadets. The morning session consisted of Marine (boat) training. With the township sitting on the Rancocas Creek, and the proximity to the Delaware River, the department boat can be utilized anytime someone is in distress on the water. Academy staff went over the operation of the unit, boat operations safety, and equipment clean-up and restoration. The cadets were given the opportunity to use the boat on the Rancocas Creek to do simulated rescue scenarios under the direction of academy staff.
On Monday afternoon the cadets participated in Active Shooter Training. The cadets used the department's ballistic protection and simulated entering a building as the Rescue Task Force after the police have secured the suspect. The cadets found victims, utilized their training in Stop the Bleed, and applied the appropriate first aide or tourniquet(s) to prepare the victims to be moved to a collection point for transport to the hospital. Monday showed the cadets that the fire service isn't just about putting out fires, it's about being prepared for any type of incident at any time.
Tuesday was probably the hottest day of the academy, and while the academy staff changed the day's planned training due to the heat, the cadets still put there skills to the test. In the morning the academy traveled to the Burlington County Emergency Services Training Center (BCESTC). During their time at the BCESTC the cadets conducted high-rise and search training. They started by ascending a 4 story building in full gear and deployed a hose line to flow water, simulating a fire on the upper floor of a building. Later cadets crawled through a maze to simulate being inside a structure using a right or left hand search pattern.
In the afternoon the cadets returned to the firehouse. During this training session the cadets visited four stations: ropes and knots, RIC Board, search and rescue, and the 60 second drill. The training gave the cadets an opportunity to work on new skills, and refresh skills that were learned earlier in the program. After the training the cadets had a little fun to end the day. They participated in the Bucket Brigade, which is a how firefighters extinguished fires before the invention of hand drawn and motorized fire apparatus. The cadets used a five gallon bucket to continually fill a larger bucket. The first crew to fill the larger bucket was the winner. On a hot day it was a great way for the cadets to work on one of the most important fire service skills, teamwork.
On Wednesday the cadets boarded a bus and headed up the New Jersey Turnpike to New York City to visit the Fire Department of New York's Marine Unit 1 (Vessel #343) and Fire Museum. The Marine Unit tour consisted of seeing the fire boat and their quarters. Marine Unit staff spoke with the cadets about the vessels they operate and life inside the Marine Unit. After spending time at the Marine Unit it was time for a visit to the museum.
Upon their arrival at the museum, Executive Director Gary Urbanowicz (ret. FDNY) saw the cadets in the building and took time to give them a brief history of the FDNY, the museum, and some of the important things to see while we were there. Cadets got to see how “primitive” firefighting was compared to the equipment used today. The cadets were then greeted by retired Firefighter Harriet Duren who was one of the the first females hired by the FDNY in the 1980’s. FF Duren showed the cadets how to exit a home in a smoke filled environment. Firefighters from 33 Engine stopped in the museum and spoke with the cadets about their career goals, and the cadets met a rookie female firefighter that just finished the academy.
Thursday was the big day, Graduation Day at the Kennedy Center. The cadets spent the morning practicing for graduation and assisting with preparing the venue. After lunch the cadets assembled in the banquet hall in front of township and department staff, but most importantly in front of family and friends. Chief of Department Burnett, Deputy Chief Clark, and Public Safety Director Lomon spoke to the cadets and commended them on their accomplishments over the three week program. During the ceremony the cadets demonstrated the skills learned during the 60 Second Drill and CPR Training.
Over the course of the three week program the cadets put alot of heart and effort into learning new skills, and refreshing old ones. They worked hard no matter what the task or assignment. Most importantly they went from being individuals to becoming a team. The Willingboro Fire Department looks forward to seeing some familiar faces for next year's Youth Fire Academy.