Albion fire chief wants to start junior firefighter program

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 28 January 2016 at 12:00 am

File photo by Tom Rivers – Firefighters from Albion and Medina are pictured on Sept. 11 during a memorial service on the anniversary of the 9-11 terrorist attacks.

ALBION – Albion Fire Chief Harry Papponetti worries about the future of the all-volunteer Albion Fire Department.

He said it is increasingly difficult to find volunteers able to spring into action for fire and other emergency calls. Many families have both parents working, and there are other demands on people’s time, making it a challenge to find volunteers who can put in the needed training, respond to calls and complete other tasks in the Fire Department.

Papponetti has seen the success of junior firefighter programs at other departments, including the Shelby Volunteer Fire Company. Shelby has welcomed a new wave of younger firefighters in recent years.

“We have to start this program or else we won’t have volunteers in the future and the village will need a paid fire department,” Papponetti told the Village Board on Wednesday.

Albion used to have an Explorer program but Papponetti said those participants were limited in what they could do in training.

“Our hands were tied with the Explorer program,” he said.

With junior firefighters, they can’t be interior firefighters, but they can take state firefighter courses and work towards becoming a certified firefighter. They are also covered through the Fire Department’s insurance program.

“We have to look at recruitment,” Papponetti told the Village Board.

The board gave Papponetti permission to pursue the program, although the board wants a final say after it sees the application process and more details.

Papponetti said the Fire Department responded to 430 calls in 2015 and already has been on 40 calls the first 27 days of 2016.

The fire chief also updated the board on the Fire Department’s new fire truck. It is expected to arrive and be in service in April. The new truck will replace two for the Albion Fire Department – a pumper from 1974 and a smaller truck used to respond to motor vehicle accidents. That truck from 2004 has extrication equipment.