Youth firefighter and police programs are commonplace across the country. In Delran, the fire department has been engaging younger generations for decades with its junior member program.
“I started in that program,” Cpt. Joseph Cunningham Jr. said. “Six of our nine full-time officers have come through our junior program at some point … It’s something that’s been tried and true for our fire department.”
The program is aimed at kids from 14 to 17 who participate in much of the same daily and ongoing activities that full-time officers at the department do. The program’s application process is the same as that of any firefighter who wants to apply for the Delran department.
Junior members under 18 aren’t yet eligible to go through fire school and can’t participate in any live fire situations or the like. That’s because of child labor laws and policies, but it doesn’t diminish the program experience.
“They do have limited access, but they’re still riding in firetrucks to emergencies with us,” Cunningham said. “They’re still training with us. We very much try to treat them the same as our regular firefighters.”
Junior member program numbers in recent years have been strong and continues to be the case even through this year, with a large group of members at Delran’s Winterfest event.
Continuing to engage younger members of the community has worked wonders for the department, with a large percentage of adult department members coming through the youth ranks.
“We’ll say it a million times – they’re our future,” Cunningham observed. “The people that are in the fire department now certainly aren’t getting younger …To see that kind of full circle for the junior members is nice because it shows them that, ‘Hey, I started in the same exact shoes that you did when I was 14 and now, we’re some of the key players leading the department.’”
Registration for the junior program remains open to anyone in the eligible age group. Ways to reach out to the fire department include email, over the phone and Facebook.