DEPARTMENT TAKES AIM AT YOUTH

Members of the Boardman Rural Fire Department's Future Firefighters In Training (FFIT) experience different aspects of a volunteer firefighter's responsibilities.

BOARDMAN — It's not always easy recruiting volunteers for a rural fire department.

The Boardman Rural Fire Department is hoping a new program will get more people interested in volunteering. Future Firefighters In Training (FFIT), for youth ages 15 through 18, began a couple of months ago and has, so far, been a success.

The kids meet from 7 until 9 p.m. every Thursday with the Boardman Rural Fire Department's volunteers.

"We incorporate them with what goes on in the fire hall," said Paul Gisi, a former volunteer firefighter who serves as counselor for the program. "We give them an opportunity to experience what the firefighters do. The chief (Marc Rogelstad), the assistant chief (Bill Ellis) and myself match their tasks with their age."

FFIT members learn how firefighters accomplish important jobs such as filling tanker trucks with water in a rural area.

"Basically, they learn to do it properly and safely," Gisi said.

The teenagers taking part in the program are finding it to be a fun learning experience.

"It's fun," said Sonnia Bradley, whose dad, Lt. David Bradley, serves as first responder for the Boardman Rural Fire Department.

"I do this because I thought it would be a good opportunity to learn how much work firefighters actually go through to do this," said Joe Rupe, 14.

His sister, Sheri Rupe, 16, is also a member of FFIT.

"I felt like it would be a good experience," said Sheri Rupe. "It is really fun to do. Once you get started, you don't want to stop. And you get to meet a lot of different peo ple and get to see how other fire departments do it and how our firefighters do it. It's really awesome."

The goal of the organization is to introduce kids to firefighting with hopes that when they reach 18 years of age they will become active volunteer firefighters.

"We want to expose kids to this, to get them some training," Gisi said. "Then when they reach 18 they are ahead of the game, they are ready to be on the end of a hose."

The FFIT youth who decide to go into firefighting still must attend the academy to be certified.

"Then they legally can be on the end of hose and fight fires once they achieve basic," Gisi said.

Gisi said the young people seem to motivate the volunteers on the fire department.

"The kids are positive about it," said Gisi. "They've been showing up, doing the training. They're involved with the firefighters. There are a lot more hands when we clean the hall or wash fire trucks. They get in there and don't complain."

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