The New Paltz Fire Department is currently recruiting young people ages 16-17 to join their newly created Junior Firefighter program. “This is a huge opportunity for the youth of our community,” says Second Assistant Chief Dylan Babcock. “They will have the opportunity to gain free training and experience in the emergency services that can be used as a springboard for future employment in the field. They’ll also have access to many other perks, such as college tuition reimbursement through FASNY after serving the department for a certain time frame.”
The program will be led by experienced officers and firefighters, ensuring a safe and supervised experience. And perhaps, it will also inspire a lifetime of volunteerism. “We’re looking to build the youth of our community while also recruiting quality firefighters to help protect this wonderful community that we live in,” Babcock says. “What better way than to give the fire department leaders of tomorrow a head start?”
The New Paltz program will be among thousands of local junior firefighter programs nationwide. The national program was launched in 2007 by the National Volunteer Fire Council (NVFC), to support fire departments by fostering relationships and engaging youth in learning about, and ultimately becoming, members of the emergency services.
The local program is not directly affiliated with the NVFC National Junior Firefighter program, says Babcock, but rather based off of some of its guidelines. “We decided to not directly adopt the national program, because we’re New Paltz, and New Paltz is always unique! We wanted to establish a program that would allow for the young people to be involved in our daily operations, including training and calls, while also creating a safe environment for them to learn and get their feet wet.”
The New Paltz Junior Firefighter Program is based on a points system, he adds, in which a junior firefighter will be required to attain a predetermined amount of points annually to be considered “in good standing” and remain a member of the program. The junior firefighter must also maintain passing grades in all courses at all times or will be temporarily suspended from the program until their passing grades are met.
Babcock says the fire department believes transparency is essential to any youth program. “The part that we thought was very important in our community was involvement of the parents or guardians in the application process, and allowing them to gain confidence in our program and be comfortable in allowing their child to take part in our activities and calls,” he says. “A parent or guardian must be present for the junior firefighter’s interview, and must sign off on different understandings as to what is expected of their child, what they must do to ensure an open dialogue between the department and the parents or guardians, and what we will do to ensure the safety of their child.”
According to information compiled by the New Paltz Fire Department, the first fire department in town was the Huguenot Fire Engine Company No. 1, organized in 1861. The company was disbanded within seven years. The village was without fire protection until the Ulster Hook and Ladder Company No. 1 was organized on July 1, 1889. The bucket company was supplemented by the Star Hose Company when the water works was completed in 1892, and the two units served the community (with some rivalry) until they were united into one company in 1918: the present-day New Paltz Fire Department.
The municipal building on Plattekill Avenue has served as the New Paltz firehouse since 1950. At this time, the department houses four of its nine-piece apparatus fleet there. The other are housed at the sub-station on the corner of Henry W. Dubois Drive and North Putt Corners Road.
The New Paltz Fire Department currently operates two engines, one rescue pumper, one supply pumper, one tanker, one brush/fire police truck, one rescue boat, one utility off-road vehicle and the 100-foot platform ladder truck.
The department is 100 percent volunteer-run, led by a chief and two assistant chiefs, one captain and three lieutenants. They handle some 700 fire calls per year, but do not provide EMS. Their district encompasses SUNY New Paltz, a 20-mile portion of the New York State Thruway and the village and town of New Paltz. When necessary, on request, they provide services to assist neighboring departments.
For more information about applying to the Junior Firefighter Program, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or message them on Facebook.