A junior firefighter works in a support role to firefighters by assisting with limited tasks at emergency scenes. He or she may help with outside fire hoses, carry needed supplies to firefighters working on the exterior of a fire scene, and assist with traffic control. Junior firefighters typically do not participate in any dangerous activity, but attend training sessions to learn about the job.
In many areas, a junior firefighter is an older teenager interested in emergency services as a career. Fire departments use these programs as recruitment tools to prepare young people for firefighting courses after they graduate from secondary school. They also promote volunteerism in the community and increase community awareness of emergency service activities.
A junior firefighter typically learns about hazards at fire scenes under the supervision of a senior firefighter. He or she might be permitted inside a structure after a blaze is extinguished and no risk of collapse exists. In this role, a junior firefighter might assist with clean-up and observe how fire investigators work. He or she typically helps collect equipment and loads it on the truck before leaving the fire scene.
These cadets receive training alongside regular firefighters, typically on a monthly basis. When an emergency call goes out over a pager or radio, a junior firefight responds to the fire station and accompanies firefighters to the scene. Prohibitions typically limit participation to after-school hours and up to a certain time at night. If the emergency involves downed power lines or gas leaks, regulations commonly require the teen to remain on the fire truck until the area is deemed safe.
In some fire departments, a junior firefighter is prohibited from responding to hazardous material spills that involve nuclear or biological substances. The teen volunteer might also be banned from any call involving explosives or terrorist threats. In some regions, a junior firefighter may not participate in mass casualty scenes, such as a plane, train, or bus accident with multiple injuries or deaths.
Most junior firefighter programs require the student maintain good grades, undergo a police background check, and obtain parental permission. He or she might also need a complete physical examination to show fitness to serve as a volunteer. Strict rules commonly regulate junior firefighters, including prohibitions on offensive clothing and language. They are expected to treat peers and the public with courtesy and respect as representatives of the fire department. A junior firefighter who violates regulations might face discipline or suspension from the program.