For the 13th year, the Youth Firefighter Academy has returned to the WVU Fire Service Academy in Lewis County.
The annual event attracts teenage firefighters from around the country to learn more about the skills and techniques needed in the job. Director Mark Lambert said the academy offers kids a chance to practice skills with resources they may not otherwise have access to.
“A lot of departments don’t have the training props we do that allow them to get a more real taste of the experience of a firefighter and see if this is something they want to pursue as a career or as a volunteer,” said Lambert.
The academy has continued to grow over the 13 years since it started, reaching as far away as Texas and Colorado. Students such as Emma Brown came for all of the four years she was eligible, and is now back as a counselor in training. She said the academy offers more than just a fun time putting out fires.
“This place has given me access to really great leadership and been an example for how I can partake in my community at home. It’s also allowed me to gain lots and lots of firefighter skills and knowledge so I can take that back to my fire department,” Brown said.
Brown isn’t the only one to see her work bear fruit. She’s part of a group chat of former students, many of whom have gone on to careers in emergency services, or become a firefighter in the military. For her part, she’s studying to be a doctor, but volunteering at a fire department in Colorado, and said the knowledge the program provides has paid off for all of them.
“It’s really great to see them being successful, and since they have those jobs, a lot of them can’t make it back here, but they know this place has given them a lot of tools and skills to be a leader in the profession that they’re in now,” said Brown.