By Peter Becker
LORDS VALLEY - Junior firefighters getting some valuable training over the weekend in Pike County wrapped up with some unexpected first-hand experience when a spreading forest fire broke out less than a mile away.
Blooming Grove Fire Chief Jack Longhenry said that the fire fortunately was limited to the woods and no structures were involved. About five or six acres were involved, he said, south of Pike County Boulevard off Route 739.
Multiple fire companies were being called out at 3:11 p.m. The PA Bureau of Forestry had an air tanker available, and made good use of it, Longhenry said. The fire was brought under control from the air, and the fire crews on the ground had only to "mop up.," he said.
About 40 teenagers were being trained Saturday and Sunday at the Pike County Training Center (Pike County Emergency Management Agency) on Pike County Boulevard. Fire Departments from across Pike County and a few from Wayne County and adjoining counties were represented, and conducting the training, in anything from vehicle rescue to operating a fire hose.
Longhenry said the training session was getting ready to stop when the fire broke out.
The junior firefighters were summoned into action, manning portable ponds to refill fire department tanker trucks.
The Chief said the cause of the fire was not known. The fire was contained at about 5 p.m. He said there was concern that the fire could reach the septic spray field behind the Pike County Prison, and affect the sprinkler heads.
Fire departments that were dispatched included: Blooming Grove. Greeley, Dingman Township, Central, Delaware Township, Hemlock Farms, Milford, Tafton, Shohola, Forest and Hawley.
Ambulance units from Lackawaxen, Dingman Township and Hemlock Farms were also on scene.
First county-wide training
The county-wide junior firefighter training was coordinated by Tim Knapp, Assistant Chief at Forest Volunteer Fire Department in Kimbles. Knapp said that the training exercise was a complete success, with nearly 100 people on Sunday, between the juniors and adult instructors and helpers.
They were taking advantage of the county training facility which offers a structure, extensive grounds, pond and classrooms. Fire departments often train together with nearby companies but this was the first county-wide training for juniors done in Pike County. Wayne County and adjoining companies were also invited.
Juniors were being instructed on vehicle rescue, use of ladders, smoke ventilation, search and rescue, hose operation, drafting water and setting up a portable pond.
Junior firefighters are between ages 14 and 17. They may assist in any duties except conducting interior firefighting. To enter a burning structure, a firefighter must be at least age 18 and have completed the last component of the Essentials Training, said Michele Manzione, a Forest Volunteer vehicle rescue firefighter and spokesperson during the training exercise.
Cars were donated to show how patients (using a dummy) may need to be extricated and boarded on an ambulance.
Although mostly boys, Manzione was glad to say there were some girls being trained.
Volunteer fire companies, in this age of dwindling numbers of available helpers, must be able to cooperate, Manzione affirmed. These exercises afford opportunity to become acquainted with other department personnel and their equipment, as well as to learn to work as a team.
William Deschenes, a junior firefighter for Promised Land Fire Department, said the weekend training was very useful to get together with other companies. "It doesn't matter who you work with, you got to learn to work together," he said.
Junius Williams is a Forest Volunteer junior member. "I like to learn hands-on," he said. "I want to be able to help people and make my parents proud."