Burlington Township Fire Department offering residents a chance to play firefighter

The Burlington Township Fire Department has created a ride along program to give potential volunteer firefighters a glimpse at a day in the lives’ of their communities firefighters.

Left to right Matt Goldman, Nick Taylor and Chuck Tamblyn practice holding the fire hoses under the immense water pressure shooting out on Thursday, April 13.

The Burlington Township Fire Department has implemented a ride along program to give aspiring volunteer firefighters the chance to experience a night as a firefighter. The program allows those interested to observe firefighters’ routines, training and responses to emergency calls.

“This really is unique,” Director of Fire Services John Stewart said. “We’re actually allowing people to be a part of what we do.”

Stewart said Burlington Township is an all-volunteer fire department, and these days it’s more difficult to get volunteers. He said the hope is that by giving potential volunteers a taste of the experience, they will be more inclined to join.

Stewart said the Beverly Road Station receives just fewer than 1,000 emergency calls a year, equating to about two or three calls a day. Some are motor vehicle accidents while others are fire alarms, and the Burlington Township Fire Department also works with neighboring municipalities such as Burlington City to respond to calls when additional help is needed.

The department’s first night of the ride along program on Thursday, April 13 started with cleaning two trucks. The volunteers hosed down the engines and ran the equipment for several minutes as they do every night to ensure all of the tools are working properly.

Ride along participants are given a high visibility vest and assigned a seat on one of the trucks. If there’s not an active scene to attend to, ride along attendees can witness training exercises as volunteers practice unrolling hoses and hooking them up to a hydrant.

Once the hoses are hooked up, participants can feel the pressure with which the water is dispelled as they hold the hoses and practice shooting water under the instruction of firefighters.

If an active scene should arise, participants must wear a protective helmet, and if they want to get a sense of the sheer weight of the firefighters’ gear, they can try on the more than 100-pound fire safety gear the volunteers wear.

When the volunteers return to the station, they clean each hose and leave them out to dry to prevent mold and mildew.

Stewart said many people do not realize the amount of work that goes into being a volunteer aside from running into a fire. He said by shadowing volunteers for a night, they can get a real glimpse into other areas where the volunteers work hard to keep things running smoothly.

He said a common misconception is the township’s firefighters are paid for their efforts, but the department is run entirely on a volunteer basis. He said the goal of this program is not only to clear up that misconception, but to show the hard work and care with which volunteers serve the community.

Participants must be at least at least 16 years old to ride along, and anyone under the age of 18 must have a parent or guardian sign a permission slip.

Once an application and waiver form are completed, interested participants will be assigned a weekday or weeknight at one of Burlington Township’s three fire stations. Applications are available by calling the fire department office at (609) 239–5849 or on their website at http://btfd.org/ride-along-with-firefighters-in-burlington-township.