The next generation of firefighters; Riverton begins cadet program.

April 21, 2015
Chief Joe Cooper, right, shows cadets Adam Wagner and Cody Cooper some equipment in a fire truck.

Chief Joe Cooper, right, shows cadets Adam Wagner and Cody Cooper some equipment in a fire truck.

By Rob Alway. Editor-in-Chief.

RIVERTON TWP. — Sustaining staffing at the area’s fire departments can often be a challenge. Riverton Township Fire Department is working a solution. The department recently started a cadet program for teens ages 16 and 17. The program allows the teens to be part of the department, short of actually fighting fires, treating patients or driving vehicles in times of emergency.

“This is a great way to encourage the younger generation to be part of the fire service,” said Chief Joe Cooper. “Not only are we teaching them about saving lives and property, we are teaching them about community service.”

There are six cadets on the department, most of them have a connection to a member of the department, such as Joe’s son, Cody.

“Growing up in this department and watching my dad and uncles just encouraged me to be part of it as well,” Cody, 17, said. “Being a cadet also gives me a head start for when I turn 18 and can officially join.”

Cadets are issued protective turn-out gear, a helmet and a pager. They may respond to emergency calls, but are not allowed to respond with lights or siren and must obey all traffic laws. They also are not allowed to leave school or school activities to respond to a fire department call.

When on scene, they will be required to wear an orange vest identifying them as cadets.

“We are going to allow them to spray some water on fires when the scene is deemed safe,” Cooper said. “They won’t be allowed to come to hazardous material calls nor will they be able to be in the water for a water emergency. They also won’t be able to ride in the fire trucks to an emergency. However, there are plenty of things for them to do on the scene.”

Firefighters in Mason County do not get paid full time wages. Riverton Fire Department is part of the Mason County Rural Fire Authority, whose firefighters get paid hourly per-call. The cadets will not get paid until they are eligible to apply to be hired by the department. The experience they gain, though, will be worth more than wages.

“Once they turn 18 they can go take classes,” Joe said. “But, there’s a lot that is learned from experience.”

Joe said he expects the cadets will fit in well with the department.

“We have a young department already, so there really isn’t much of an age gap between the cadets and the firefighters. Plus, most of the cadets pretty much grew up in this department so they are familiar with the personnel.”

Joe said he hopes other departments in Mason County consider starting cadet programs.

“It’s a challenge to get new members,” he said. “The amount of training that is expected of firefighters these days is more than ever. But, this can be a very rewarding skill that can often become a career.” 

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