For its commitment to the community and to developing the next generation of firefighters, the Mineola Junior Fire Department has earned statewide recognition.

The 26-member department was named Youth Group of the Year by the Firemen’s Association of the State of New York and was presented with pins and a plaque Wednesday evening at Mineola Village Hall.

“The Mineola junior firefighters display a degree of professionalism and dedication remarkable for people of their young ages,” Firemen’s Association President Robert McConville said in an email. “They have been recognized internationally as a model for other youth groups on how to create and run a successful youth-centered service organization.”

Mineola Mayor Scott Strauss, himself a former junior firefighter, commended the teens, ages 14 to 17, for their “charitable acts,” which include food drives, fundraisers, shoveling snow off driveways and, recently, collecting clothing to ship to Ecuador after that country was rocked by a devastating earthquake.

“They’re the backbone of the Mineola Fire Department and just a fantastic youth organization,” Strauss said. “This award is a long time coming.”

More than 75 percent of the junior firefighters go on to join the ranks of one of Mineola’s three fire companies, according to Assistant Chief Robert Connolly.

“The juniors are an integral part of the department,” said Connolly, who also was a junior firefighter. “They’re a great resource for us, especially because they come so well-trained.”

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The teens receive firsthand experience battling blazes, Connolly said. Many of them ride along with firefighters, assisting them on the scene with crowd control and transporting equipment.

“All the hands-on experience really prepares us for what’s ahead,” said Neal Ressa, 16, captain of the junior department, who hopes to become a firefighter. “It’s a tremendous honor to be recognized for the countless hours of work that everyone has put in.”