Botetourt County Fire and EMS updates policies for junior members

Published: Jul. 27, 2022 at 10:23 PM EDT
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BOTETOURT COUNTY, Va. (WDBJ) - Before Tuesday, 16- and 17-year-old junior firefighters at Botetourt County Fire and EMS could earn their level one fire certification but had restrictions, like going into a burning building, until they turned 18. That all changed Tuesday as the Botetourt County Board of Supervisors approved the updated policy.

“It doesn’t mean that they go in a fire alone or by themselves as 16- and 17-year-olds,. They still have to be with adults, they still have to have parental consent and be supervised appropriately. But it allows them to utilize the skills and be a part of the team,” said Chief Jason Ferguson.

Ferguson said for some time they’ve been wanting to propel their junior member program, which currently has 15 members. A Fire and EMS Commission worked on updating the policy for the last year before it was taken to the Board of Supervisors.

“What we did, is we evolved that in our ordinance, and the board adopted in a 5-0 vote to approve an ordinance change. That basically struck that last piece, that indicates that once a 16- or 17-year-old is certified through the same training that an adult would receive, then they are eligible to fully participate.”

Ferguson said it was time to update this policy, especially when they started comparing it to agencies around Virginia.

“We looked around at the region and even across the state, and quite honestly we were one of the only jurisdictions left, that I could find, that still had that restriction.”

Ferguson feels the change can help open up the future of fire and EMS for the teenagers, whether that be volunteering or making it their career.

“If we can get them engaged early on in their pathway, they may be a 20-year volunteer for us. Or they may find a love for it and say you know what, this is a passion for me.”

Botetourt County Fire and EMS currently has 240 volunteers, but Ferguson said those numbers have declined over the years. He knows the time and effort the junior members are putting in each day and is happy they’ll be able to participate now entirely.

Botetourt County Fire and EMS is also accepting applications to join its full-time team. Anyone interested can head to their website here.

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