Long-time Lake George firefighter Bob McKinney pins a fire course graduation medal on his grandson Kory Russell as Russell’s mother Barbara McGuirk (center), president of the Lake George Fire Department, observes the gesture. Warrensburg Fire Chief Justin Hull (left rear) looks on.
State Fire Instructor Issachar “Izzy” Modert looked at a lineup of volunteer firefighters in formal dress standing in front of a crowd that had just hailed them with a standing ovation. Minutes earlier, they had been presented with certificates hailing their graduation from a basic firefighting course.
Modert offered some advice to the many area fire officers present to witness the ceremony.
“Continue to teach them, encourage them, keep them eager and dedicated so their children too may serve,” he said.
A total of 20 volunteers from Warren, Saratoga and Washington counties completed the course — 18 young men and women were certified in basic firefighting, and two others in “scene support operations.”
These new firefighters were sponsored by their hometown fire companies in Warrensburg, Stony Creek, Chestertown, Bay Ridge/Queensbury, Pilot Knob, Fort Ann, West Glens Falls, South Glens Falls and Kingsbury.
The rookie firefighters had not only learned how to handle ladders and hoses, how fires can spread, but they learned about building construction and its role in fires, fire behavior, rescue techniques, firefighting protocol, hazardous materials handling and fire scene safety.
The 91-hour course was conducted over two and a half months, and the new firefighters had volunteered their time to learn it all.
During the course, they also attacked live flames within a smoke-filled building in Saratoga County’s “burn building” training center, as well as completing exercises at Warren County’s training center. Their six hours of live fire training included quelling a blazing vehicle.
“They’ve gone through a lot,” Warren County Deputy Fire Coordinator Scott Combs told the audience.
Warren County Emergency Services Director Brian LaFlure echoed the point.
“In recent years with the economy being the way it is, volunteerism has become harder and harder,” he said. “We’re fortunate that in this area, we have men and women who want to volunteer and spend the time it takes to become a firefighter.”
Modert, a Pottersville resident who serves as an officer of his hometown fire company, said that these new recruits had two reasons to take the course: to serve their community and to follow a tradition in their respective families to be active in fire service.
“They want to give back, they want to be a vital part of the community when it’s really needed — volunteering their time, applying their skills and putting their lives on the line for others,” he said.
Thurman Supervisor Evelyn Wood, who serves as chair of Warren County’s Public Safety Committee, expressed her thoughts to the crowd in the packed community room of Bay Ridge Fire Hall, where many of the class sessions were conducted.
“This is a wonderful thing that these people are stepping forward and taking the challenge to protect our communities and make our world so much better,” she said.
Class representative Todd Lawson, a graduate of Warrensburg High School, thanked the personnel of area companies who helped instruct the sessions on their own time.
“Going through this, we endured a lot of blood, sweat and tears, but we made it,” he said.
Lawson had produced a video of the group’s experiences during the course. Lake George Firefighter Chris McGuirk had taken many of the photographs.
The course graduates from northwestern Warren County are: Kory Russell, Tyler Boutin, Casey Marviglio and Todd Lawson representing Warrensburg Volunteer Fire Co., Joshua Hayes and Michael Swanson from Stony Creek Fire Co., and Thomas Urtz from the Chestertown Fire Department. Also graduating and representing other area fire companies were: Robert Bell, Jake Dailey, Laura Dalaba, Nicole Dalaba, Jessica Davidson, Lucas DeWeese, Caila Finkle, Ryan Saunders, Willard J.P. Siegel-Sawma, Adam St. John, Joe Townson, Alex Brooks and Joseph Pashby.
After the ceremony, LaFlure watched the rookie firefighters being congratulated by family and friends.
“This training is just the very beginning of the instruction they’ll receive in their firefighting careers,” he said. “They’ve got 15 or 16 more specialized courses ahead of them.”