HALESITE, New York, May 21
BY: Andrew Wroblewski
Back in the 1980s, the Halesite Fire Department played host to a Junior Firefighter program. Teenagers from around the district joined up to learn the ins-and-outs of being a firefighter, serving a community and working as a part of a team. Tom Holly, Mike Magerle and Dan McConnell were three of those teenagers.
Years later, both Holly and Magerle have previously served as Halesite’s chief of the department – the position which McConnell currently mans.
But the Junior Firefighter program diminished and hasn’t existed since.
That was until Halesite firefighter KC Anna asked a question during one of the department’s meetings: “Why don’t we have a Juniors program anymore?” he said.
McConnell stopped, he pondered the question and began to think of the success the program had brought the department in the past – how it helped to increase awareness and bring in new members while simultaneously aiding the youth of the community to represent Halesite.
That was all the encouragement the chief needed; on Jan. 12, 2015, 30 junior firefighters were sworn-in by McConnell in a resurgence of a program that had been dormant for more than 25 years.
“In starting the Juniors back up we have many goals, but one of them is to serve as a pipeline for new members to the organization,” McConnell said. “We want to develop a closer relationship with our community.”
Anna, who joined the department in 2012, now works as program coordinator for the Juniors, which now includes 33 dedicated members. Attendance during the Juniors’ two monthly meetings has been high and consistent, he said proudly.
“The enthusiasm is very, very high,” he said. “My feeling is that these kids want to be proud to be a part of their community, but they don’t necessarily know how. This program gives them an outlet to do that – to learn how to get involved… to get exposed to what it means to be a volunteer firefighter.”
The first of those two monthly meetings falls on the second Monday of every month and serves as a time for the Juniors to conduct official business – led by themselves with the aid of department members – and run through firematic activities to learn what it’s like to be a firefighter.
The second meeting is more open with the opportunity for experiences outside of the department, such as trips to fire-related destinations like the Cold spring Harbor Fire House Museum.
On Saturday, the Juniors will host a fundraising car wash behind the Halesite Fire Department from 9 a.m.-1 p.m.
Later this summer, the Juniors will begin training a drill team and expect to participate in the annual Greenlawn Fire Department Junior Firefighter’s Muster Drill Competition.
McConnell and Anna asked that those interested in learning more about the program, and how to join it, visit the department’s official website: http://www.halesitefd.org.
Originally published: Long Islander News: The Long Islander
(Thursday, May 21, 2015; A5)