Dozens of Nassau teens this week traded in a sliver of their summer vacation for a different kind of adventure — putting out fires in burning buildings.
Amid scorching flames and muggy July weather, youths from 23 Nassau communities and fire departments took part in the second annual Camp Fahrenheit 516, a Nassau Junior Firefighters boot camp training teens to be the next generation of Long Island firefighters.
“This is a real fire, and you are the real firefighters of Nassau County, starting right now,” Don Marra, 51, of Sayville, an instructor with the Nassau County Fire Service Academy in Old Bethpage, told young junior firefighters moments before a warehouse fire drill during the fourth day of their training.
Under the program, the fire service instructors teach youths how to combat fire and safety situations through a series of interactive drills, including extricating victims with hydraulic rescue tools and putting out vehicle fires.
In its first session last year, the program drew 30 teens from 19 fire departments around Nassau County who have committed to becoming firefighters when they turn 18. Now in its second year, the program has grown to 45 teens participating in the 40-hour, weeklong series of training exercises, said Jerry Presta, 52, of East Norwich, an adviser with the Nassau County Junior Firefighters Association.
Some in the program are following in their family’s tradition of being firefighters. John Cook, 16, of Rockville Centre, a captain with the junior firefighters, wants to be a third-generation firefighter, like his father, Brian Cook, and grandfather Thomas Cook.
“It’s hot, but I’m learning a lot, having a lot of fun, meeting new people from all over the place,” John said after the warehouse fire drill, his favorite part of the training camp. “I’m having a good time.”
Others youngsters, like Benjamin Kobliner, 16, of Great Neck, would be the first in their family to become firefighters.
Benjamin said the firefighting tactics and practice time he had with them in camp were a big help in his training.
“When we’re here and we’re doing 15 topics in one week, it’s really fast paced and it’s more intense, but that’s a good thing, because we get used to doing this all the time,” he said. “We definitely learn a lot more when we’re here all day and doing different stuff.”
George Frontino, 16, of South Farmingdale, whose father Philip serves in the Hewlett Fire Department, sees firefighting as a way to have fun and do some good.
“We get to do all kinds of training . . . all kinds of cool things we get to do,” George said. “And we get to help people, which is awesome.”