Volga is first in county to have junior firefighters

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Members of the Volga Junior Firefighters are, from left: Joe Whittle, William Christeleit, Cole Deitchler, Jon Whittle, and Tom Whittle

By Kim Hurley

Freelance Writer

 

Many little boys play firemen, mimicking their grandfathers, dads, and uncles who are “real-life” firefighters. . .true heroes who do not hesitate to put themselves in danger to save the lives of others. The Volga Community Fire Department (VCFD) has made it possible for local teenagers to get an early start in following their heroes’ footsteps.

In the fall of 2015, the VCFD instituted the Volga Junior Firefighter program whereby a current firefighter agrees to mentor a junior firefighter. The mentor is required to take a short online class to better understand how to mentor and motivate young people in a positive way. 

According to Dennis Whittle, VCFD Assistant Fire Chief, the age requirement of a junior firefighter is determined by local fire department personnel and current state and federal laws. William Christeleit, son of Terry and Jolene Christeleit; Cole Deitchler, son of Lanny and Deb Deitchler; Tom Whittle, son of Dennis and Tricia Whittle; and Joe and Jon Whittle, sons of Mike and Hollie Whittle, were the very first inductees into this program.

If they have the proper training, equipment and supervision, junior firefighters can perform the needed fire support on the scene, Dennis emphasizes, but they cannot enter a burning structure. The Volga Junior Firefighters have been able to experience entering and extinguishing multiple fires in a controlled “burn trailer” brought to Volga by Customized Firefighter Training Inc.   

The VCFD is proud to be the first fire department in Clayton County to have a junior firefighter program. In a small community, it’s a challenge to find enough people to volunteer and go through the required training to be able to protect our friends, family, and neighbors in an emergency situation. ‘It’s our hope that by involving and encouraging youth, we will increase their awareness of the local need for volunteers and supply them with the training needed to give them the ability and confidence that they can save lives and be heroes right where they live,” Dennis said. After all, volunteering develops a personality and a selfless attitude that make you stand out in life and on a professional resume. Tom agrees, as he rates being a part of, and helping, the community” as one of the best things of being a junior firefighter.

“Many hands make light work.” This is just one of the many benefits Dennis cites of the junior firefighter program. Working alongside experienced firefighters, the junior firefighters learn from their skills and knowledge. The junior firefighters learn how much is invested in maintaining a functional fire department, especially the vehicles and equipment.

All of the junior firefighters enjoy maintaining the vehicles. Jon Whittle says of their designated task of pumping water from the tanker every now and then,  “It’s fun to practice ways of spraying.”

One of the department’s recent projects, which involved the junior firefighters, has been the acquisition of a Freightliner Unimog, which is a Mercedes Benz military vehicle. Because it was a surplus government vehicle that was no longer used by the military, Dennis explains, “we, as a volunteer fire department, were able to acquire it at no cost by  submitting justification paperwork to Des Moines for approval.”

Dennis goes on to explain that the Unimog came with a forklift attachment on the front and a hoist on the rear. “We removed the attachments, and with a little body and mechanical work, re-purposed the vehicle to be a brush fire-fighting machine.”  It is all-wheel drive, built to navigate terrain that is not reachable with trucks, and is capable of being driven through up to 42” of water.  They hope to sell the attachments to offset the cost of the tank and pump needed to complete the unit.

The process of acquiring the Unimog also taught the junior firefighter.s 

Dennis says, “The life skills learned here will give them valuable insight on how to work with others to overcome issues and find solutions to make the world a better place.” He further points out that being trained in life-saving techniques might allow you to save your life or the life of a loved one, if you ever face an emergency situation.   

Above all, Dennis believes having younger generations of experienced firefighters increases the likelihood of Volga having a local fire department in years to come.  submitting justification paperwork to Des Moines for approval.”

Dennis goes on to explain that the Unimog came with a forklift attachment on the front and a hoist on the rear. “We removed the attachments, and with a little body and mechanical work, re-purposed the vehicle to be a brush fire-fighting machine.”  It is all-wheel drive, built to navigate terrain that is not reachable with trucks, and is capable of being driven through up to 42” of water.  They hope to sell the attachments to offset the cost of the tank and pump needed to complete the unit

The process of acquiring the Unimog also taught the junior firefighters 

Dennis affirms, “The life skills learned here will give them valuable insight on how to work with others to overcome issues and find solutions to make the world a better place.” He further points out that being trained in life-saving techniques might allow you to save your life or the life of a loved one, if you ever face an emergency situation.   

Above all, Dennis believes younger generations of experienced firefighters will Increases the likelihood of Volga having a local fire department in years to come.  This, in turn, will instill confidence in the community that their lives are in capable hands, thus gaining continued support and involvement.

 
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