The Junior Firefighter Program was started in 1978 as a subsection of the Simsbury Volunteer Fire Company. The aim of the program was to allow for the recruitment of fifteen to seventeen year-olds, spark their interest in our vocation, and prepare them to hopefully join the Regular ranks of our Company when they became of age. Since it’s inception, the Fire Company and citizens of Simsbury have been fortunate to have had over 160 fine young men and young women serve with us, with 85% continuing their service in the ranks of the Regular Firefighters. Many of our Regular Firefighters and Fire Officers started in the Junior Firefighters program, and several have gone on to career departments in other municipalities owing their start to the program and the excellent training they received here.
Junior Firefighters train alongside and respond to incidents on the apparatus with the Regular Firefighters, with some limitations. Junior Firefighters are closely supervised and are never permitted to participate in a drill or incident that exposes them to undue danger such as entering a burning building or operating at a hazardous materials incident. The Junior Firefighter Program is a training program, and they are not viewed as, or treated as employees like the Regular Firefighters. The Juniors operate in a supporting role only.
The attendance requirement for Junior Firefighters is attending 65% of drills and answering 25% of call-outs in a calendar year. As we stated however, this is a training program and the attendance standard is generally looked on as guideline and not a steadfast rule. Participation in the program should be approached in the same manner as an extra-curricular school activity. It is not the Fire Company’s desire to allow a Junior’s participation to interfere with any required school obligations, therefore allowances in attendance are made when necessary.
The Junior Firefighter Program has grown through the years, exceeding our expectations in both recruitment and participation. Today, the program is very popular among our town’s young adults. These statements are more than just boasts, as the Junior’s participation in the Connecticut Junior Firefighter Challenge is the quintessential exemplification.
Beginning in 2001, a statewide junior firefighter challenge has been held in Connecticut. Programs from all over the state compete against each other in a variety of exercises which demonstrate their teamwork and proficiency in various firefighting skills. Out of the five events, Simsbury’s team placed first in Hose Bed Repacking and Team Search, and won Best All-Around the first year the competition was held.
In 2002, our Juniors repeated as Best All-Around champions winning three out of the ten events in Ladder Deployment, Knot Tying and Midnight Alarm.
Another honor was bestowed upon our Junior Firefighter Program in 2002 when Volunteer Fireman’s Insurance Services, Inc. held their 17th annual “Junior Emergency Service Excellence Awards” competition aimed at rewarding youth programs across the country that show exceptional community involvement, effective organization and training, and other important attributes. The Simsbury Volunteer Fire Company’s Junior program was recognized with a 3rd place award.
The Junior Firefighter Challenge had grown significantly by 2003 and our Juniors found themselves in a very competitive event against eighteen other teams. Out of six events, the team placed first in the Charged Hose Line Drag and Midnight Alarm, and tied another team in the Hose Maze Crawl. A run-off was held in the event and the Simsbury team placed second. In an incredible display of sportsmanship and class, the participants from Simsbury in the Hose Maze Crawl requested that they be allowed to present the opposing team who bested them with the trophy for winning the event.
This moment was the perfect illustration as to the type of quality individuals that the Simsbury Volunteer Fire Company is fortunate to have join their Junior Firefighter Program, and to the standards which our Company holds them. While these values are for the most part inherent in our Junior Firefighters, the Company members who prepare the teams for these events instill that it takes more than winning to be winners, and winning is not as important as team work and representing the Simsbury Volunteer Fire Company in a professional and sportsmanlike manner. Notwithstanding, Simsbury’s Junior Firefighter Program three-peated in 2003, taking home their third-straight Best All-Around award.
In 2004, the Junior Firefighters from Simsbury once again found themselves in a very competitive contest against seventeen other teams. Simsbury turned in excellent performances in the first five of six events, but still found themselves without a first place finish in any individual event, and trailing by fifteen seconds for Best All-around. With determination, poise and resolve, four members of the team went to work in the Hose Bed Repacking station. Not only was their performance worthy of a first place finish in the event, but it helped put the team over the top by eight seconds to give Simsbury’s Junior Firefighter Program their fourth-straight Best All-Around finish.
Knowing that many rivals would have them in their crosshairs, Simsbury’s Junior Firefighters returned in 2005 to defend their championship against thirteen other very prepared teams. The Junior Firefighters moved through the seven events turning in competitive times all along the way. In the third event, Hose Maze Crawl, the three-man squad tore through the course in an impressive time to easily win the event. During the sixth event, the members of the Bucket Brigade squad exhibited remarkable teamwork and coordination which gave them a first place finish in the evolution. For an unbelievable fifth-consecutive year, the Simsbury Junior Firefighters Program was awarded the Best All-Around trophy at the Junior Firefighter Challenge, having finished ahead of the second place team by nearly two full minutes.
If you still have questions regarding the program, you can contact the program advisor, Lieutenant Mark Zenick. Perspective candidates who are interested in applying for admission into the Junior Firefighter Program can find information regarding the process on our Membership page, or can start the process by contacting Chief of Personnel Jason Gilbert.
Assistant Chief Jason Gilbert
Chief of Personnel
Simsbury Volunteer Fire Company
871 Hopmeadow Street
Simsbury, CT 06070