Inaugural Junior Firefighters Recruitment Camp Sparks Interest among Local Youth


Back row, L-R: Cash Ritchie, Nicholas Sortore, Ian Ellwood, Ryan Vedder, Gage Hartman
Front row, L:-R: Makayla White, Kristianna Smith, Devlin Bush, Ryan Clayton

Nine youth from across Allegany County participated in the first annual Junior Firefighter Recruitment Camp on Saturday, October 8 at the Friendship Fire Department in Friendship, NY.

The participants, from grades 10through 12, represented four volunteer fire companies in the county: Wiscoy-Rossburg, Fillmore, Friendship, and West Clarksville.

Organized by Leadership Allegany in cooperation with the Allegany County Office of Emergency Management, the one-day camp provided hands-on sessions covering the basics of firefighting. Session topics included Emergency Dispatch & County Emergency Services, Basic External Operations, Interior Fire Operations, and Pump, Hose & Nozzle Operations.

Jeff Luckey, Director of Emergency Management & Fire for Allegany County, commented, “the idea for the camp was to bring in 16-18 year-olds that currently weren’t involved in the fire department to spark their interest. Ultimately, our goal for the camp is to help increase our recruitment across the county.”

Each interactive session at the camp included a verbal presentation complemented by a hands-on component. The first session was led by Dustin Zajicek from Allegany County Emergency Services Dispatch, and Jamie Dennis-Howe, a University Police Communications and Security Specialist at Alfred State College. The youth learned the ins and outs of how operators handle incoming 911 calls. They also were given the opportunity to tour the Allegany County Emergency Mobile Command Center.

The exterior fire training was led by veteran firefighter Tim Hite, from the City of Olean Fire Department and the Allegany Fire Department. During this session, youth became familiar with turnout gear and practiced various building entry techniques using the county’s forced entry simulator.

Interior fire operations training was facilitated by Dana Atherton from the City of Olean Fire Department and the Belfast Fire Department. Participants learned how to use a self-contained breathing apparatus (SCBA) and practiced navigating through a fire wearing full turnout gear along with an air tank.

The final session was facilitated by Wes Sortore, Allegany Fire District 2 Coordinator and member of Friendship Fire Department, who led students in the deployment and use of hoses and nozzles.

“I heard about the junior firefighters camp at my school and wanted to come and experience what it was like,” shared Kristianna Smith, a junior at Friendship Central School. “It’s honestly been an amazing day—one I would definitely recommend.”

The event received wide support from across the county. Over $3,000 in financial contributions were received from 20 local business and individuals.

Sortore expressed appreciation for the students’ excitement and enthusiasm throughout the day. “Recruitment is very difficult in our area,” he shared, “yet today we’ve gotten to see kids form different communities coming together who are excited to get the gear on and learn something new. We’ve appreciated the opportunity to teach these young kids and hope to see them soon as full-fledged firemen.”

At the conclusion of the day, participants received a certificate of completion and specific guidance on how to procced with the junior firefighter application process in their local departments.

County residents of all ages who are interested in joining their local fire department can contact their fire department chief or the Allegany County Office of Emergency Management.

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