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Long Island junior firefighters getting a taste of being on the job for real

The Nassau County Junior Fire Association hosted a

The Nassau County Junior Fire Association hosted a junior firefighters camp to get young people interested in joining amid a firefighter shortage.  Credit: Howard Schnapp / Howard Schnapp

Young people from Long Island with firefighter aspirations are learning the trade this week at a hands-on camp in Old Bethpage.

Nearly 28 teenage participants from departments across Nassau and Suffolk are at Camp Fahrenheit 516 getting intense firefighting training. Topics include mask confidence, search and rescue, forcible entry, emergency evacuation procedures, ground ladders, fire extinguisher drills, two-minute drills, second-story bailouts, ropes, and live vehicle and warehouse fires.

The camp is designed to give junior firefighters firsthand experience of what it could be like for those among them who will someday don helmets and turnout coats for real.

"It’s basically to introduce the youths to the fire service at an early age," said Jerry Presta, chair of the Nassau County Junior Firefighters Association. "This way when they become the age to join the department they already have a leg up on what’s going on with training, safety, orientation."

The camp program was designed by the association's board of directors and Nassau County Fire Service Academy staff. It's the only such camp of its kind in the country, according to Presta.

"They go through everything probationary firefighters go through when they come here to join the department," Presta said, "on a scaled-down version."

The camp returned this year after being canceled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

For first-time participant Olivia Lane of Hewlett, the experience is the first step in preparing for her eventual career goal of joining the FDNY.

"I love it, it’s nothing like this," Lane said. "I would have never imagined it to be like this, we’re actually doing live fires, and we’re doing car burns tomorrow and it’s an amazing opportunity."

Another first-time participant, Joseph Fasano, also has professional firefighting aspirations and wants to follow in the footsteps of his father.

The Syosset resident said he came to the camp because he thought it it would be fun and to gain experience.

"If you want to go into some higher ranks in FDNY and other fire departments you have to be pretty skillful," he said.

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