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Teens who join often stay

July 30, 2006|by ERIN CUNNINGHAM

WASHINGTON COUNTY - Get them interested early, and there's a good chance they will stay.

Washington County fire officials said the key to keeping volunteers in stations is to recruit younger members.

The county's youngest volunteers are referred to as probationary members, junior firefighters or cadets, among other names, depending on the station.

The Hagerstown Fire Department has a similar program called the Explorer's Scout Program, which is operated through the Boy Scouts of America, said Blaine Snyder, who coordinates the program.

"We run a program where we expose them to certain aspects of fire training, which teaches them, but they don't do some things because of their age," Snyder said.

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Alan Matheny, spokesman for The Volunteer Fire Co. of Halfway, said members may join the company at age 15. He said that while the station does not have many junior members, many of the teenagers who volunteer there have parents who also are involved in the fire company.

"We try to get them early so it gets in their blood and it becomes part of what they do," Matheny said. "About 50 percent of the ones we have, have parents in it. Others have no ties."

Matheny said he was not sure how many teenage volunteers continue to volunteer into adulthood. He said some stay, but others stop volunteering because they go away to college.

Steven Lewis, fire chief of the Smithsburg Volunteer Fire Co., said the station has about three junior members.

"They attend our station for drills and training, and become familiar with the apparatus," Lewis said. "On the ground, they can ride along to the fire scene, but they can't do any interior firefighting."

Lewis said that while several teenagers volunteer at the station, he would like to see more young people get involved.

"That's the time to get them involved," Lewis said. "Hopefully, they'll stick to it and continue their membership. Recruiting is starting to be harder and harder to get people to do this type of thing."

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