Show up and ask questions
By Baron Clouston
My name is Baron Clouston and I am currently a junior firefighter at Eastside Fire Department located in Randolph County, North Carolina. I have been a member there for about a year and a half now, and I have loved every second of it. The experience I have had has been like nothing else. There are a lot of great firefighters there that have never hesitated to help me when I had a question. My chief is a great guy and he has always been there if I have ever needed anything.
The training I have participated in has been absolutely wonderful and I have learned a lot from the people there and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. One of the things that makes the experience even better is that I have other friends there that are juniors as well.
Starting as a New Junior
This process can often be very exciting but at the same time nerve wracking. It’s exciting because it’s a new experience and it looks fun, which it is, but it can also be nerve wracking because you don’t know anyone on the department and you are worried about making a good impression. Those are just a couple of the things you can feel starting out, but don’t worry, you will get your footing and soon feel right at home.
Some things I have learned very quickly is to always have a positive attitude and ask questions. It can seem easy to always see the negative in things. Without a positive attitude people won’t like being around you. Starting off with a positive attitude will help you make a good first impression. Spend time at the firehouse to ask questions. Go out to the apparatus with your firefighters and officers and start asking, “what does that do?” Ask if you can train on something that you are uncertain about. Find some of the more experienced firefighters and stick with them because they will always have something to teach you. Be sure to connect with other junior firefighters because they could show you some things, too. They also could become some of your best friends you will ever have.
Learning Your Equipment
This is probably one of the most important things you will ever do as a junior. You should always feel comfortable starting a saw, helping throw ladders, or retrieving equipment from the apparatus. Even the most basic things such as using a hand tool are important to know when you are starting out. When I first started learning the equipment was my top priority because I wanted to be an effective person on the scene. If you ever feel uneasy about operating a piece of equipment, ask someone; the only dumb question is the one you don’t ask. I was in that position a few times and the firefighters in my department really helped me out. Some of the equipment can seem very complex at first, but once you learn its purpose and how to operate it, using it becomes second nature. When I first learned how to use SCBA I was completely lost, but I didn’t stop practicing and now I can properly operate with SCBA as expected. It may seem difficult at first learning where something is or how to use it, but after you ask questions and practice it will get easier.
Your Role as a Junior on the Fireground
This applies not only to the fireground but any incident where you are on the scene. As juniors we play more of a support role on scene whether it be changing out an air bottle, helping pull a hoseline, getting someone a tool, or even getting a bottle of water for someone. We help in any way we can. You should always try to help out in any way you can and make yourself as much of an asset as possible while at the same time being sure to not hinder the operation or become a problem. The smallest things can make a big difference and again it can be as small as getting the aid bag on a medical call or as big as helping someone pull an attack line for a fire. With your training you can help out in several ways.
Supporting New Junior Firefighters
It is important to support new junior firefighters by constantly teaching them something. I remember when I first started out learning trucks and equipment. The firefighter I was at the station with would go out to the apparatus bay with me and work with me on certain trucks. We would pick one to go over and he would start out by asking me where something was located on the truck and how it was used. A great thing that my fire department does is assigning an uneasy junior firefighter a firefighter mentor. These are firefighters that have several years of experience in the department and are there if the junior has any questions or concerns.
I hope that this you just a few ideas about the initial experience in becoming a junior firefighter and how you can help support new junior firefighters starting out in the fire department.
Baron Clouston is a junior firefighter at East Side Fire Department in Randolph County, North Carolina. He joined the department in May 2019. He plans to start earning his state certifications as soon as he turns 16 and seek other training opportunities. He is going to pursue a full-time career in the fire service upon completing his education.