Firefighters-in-training decide on career as local departments struggle to recruit

Local News

Some see firefighting as a calling -- others discover it while they're on the path to something else

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WKBN) – At a time when fire departments are having an increasingly difficult time recruiting new crew members, 28 teenagers have decided it’s the career they want.

Being a firefighter takes a lot of work and endurance, not to mention the ability to carry all of that equipment and protective gear. But imagine doing that at just 17 or 18 years old.

An old duplex on E. Lucius Avenue in Youngstown has been sitting empty for quite a while but before it’s demolished, it’s being put to good use.

It was a field trip of sorts for seniors in the firefighter academies at both the Choffin and Mahoning County Career and Technical Centers.

“Firefighters — they’re caring people to risk their lives to go and save other people,” said Elijah Smith, of Youngstown. “I feel like that’s something I could do because I’m a very caring person and I’m willing to put my life on the line to save anybody else’s life.”

First, they have to get through a class and exercises like searching buildings so full of smoke you can’t see your hand in front of your face mask.

PHOTOS: Choffin, MCCTC fire academy students learn search and rescue techniques

If they pass there, they can take the state’s firefighter exam to be certified.

The instructors, who are local firefighters themselves, said some of these students start out with aspirations of going into law enforcement.

“Then they finish with our class and it kind of exposes fire at a different level,” Lt. Courtney Kelly said.

But others see this as a calling.

“I’ve always had a passion for it since I’ve been little,” said Noah Dennis, of Sebring. “To become a firefighter and just to help people in general.”

“I’m the type of person that likes to help people out and so this would be the best job, where I can be a firefighter in the military,” said Kimberly McCann, of Youngstown.

In the end, it turns the old, abandoned house in Youngstown into an inspiration for tomorrow’s generation of first responders.

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