B-A students continue service at Excelsior


Courtesy photo

Excelsior has quite a few young members who are students at Bellwood-Antis.

Johanna Heckman, Staff Writer

While many students at Bellwood-Antis are preparing for spring sports and musicals, there’s another group of kids preparing to fight fires.

At Excelsior and Pinecroft Fire Departments, as many as nine B-A students are volunteer firefighters. It’s an act of service that has become common over the years, with many Bellwood-Antis alums having learned their craft in school before becoming full, active members after graduation.

Training takes usually takes about 3-4 months to become a junior firefighter. Trainees learn engage in a series of modules or “mods” with lessons like the history of fire fighting and the use of hazmat equipment. Once a junior turns 18, they can take mod 4 to become a senior fire fighter and fight interior fires.

Many junior firefighters from B-A have already reported to fires that were dangerous and even life threatening, including a recent 2-alarm fire on Washington Avenue in Tyrone.  Jojo Caswell was there, along with  Joey Whiteford.

Most recently, both  Jojo Caswell and Joey Whiteford responded to a blaze in Tyrone when a fire destroyed a home on Washington Avenue.

“Once I heard on the scanner there was heavy smoke and heavy fire showing, I got worried. I instantly got thrown in on the air trailer,” Caswell said.

That fear is something that comes along with being a firefighter and all of the young trainees have come to accept it.

“You never really get over fear, you just face it” said senior Aarron Laird.

Caswell is going for her hazmat ops and her mod 1-3, along with Maddie McFarland and Blake DeArmitt, who are both going for their mod 1-3.

Skylar Patton is going for his mod 4, which would allow him to become an interior  firefighter.

Some of the volunteers from Bellwood-Antis have been doing it for 4-5 years. Aarron Laird has been training for 5 years.

The students agree that training can be difficult at times.

“It is tough at some points but it is fun and you will learn a lot and meet a lot of new people,” said Whiteford.

Some trainees said they joined because past relatives did it, but some others joined just because they had a interest in being a firefighter.

“I decided to become a fire fighter because of my great grand pap. He was a volunteer firefighter at Phoenix Fire Department,” said Patton.

It’s not all action and danger. Some of the other duties the young firefighters complete at Excelsior include cleaning up the station and assisting with service at the yearly fish fries the fire hall holds.