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Volunteer Firefighter Pursues Life-Long Dream

VALHALLA, N.Y. -- Brian Jessamy volunteers for the Town of Mamaroneck Fire Department, but Thursday he inched closer to his dream of becoming a career firefighter by completing a three-week crash course in basic training at the Westchester County Department of Emergency Services.

"The program went great," said Jessamy, 24, of New Rochelle, who was one of 23 volunteer firefighters taking the course. "We started the Firefighter I class three weeks ago and learned basic skills like building construction, how to compress a fire, raising ladders, using the breathing apparatus and what to do when we pull up on the scene."

Firefighter I courses had only been offered twice a week in three or four-hour sessions, making it difficult for college-age volunteers to complete the 87 hours required.

"To become a full firefighter, you need to be 18 years old," said Fire Chief Brendan Collins of the Town of Mamaroneck. "The problem we run into is most 18 years olds are off to college, so it's really hard for them."

The Department of Emergency Services made the summer session a permanent part of its course offerings beginning this summer.

"All the training programs are complete and rigorous," said DES Deputy Commissioner John Cullen in a statement released Wednesday. "By offering them at different times and in different ways, we are trying to be responsive to the needs of our volunteers."

In 2010, 203 volunteer firefighters completed Firefighter I training at DES, which also offers additional training in specific types of fires in the 27-hour Firefighter II course.

Because New Rochelle doesn't have any volunteer fire departments, Jessamy joined the Town of Mamaroneck Fire Department this past May. There, he won employee of the month for responding to the most calls, 50, in July. This included the apartment fire that displaced seven on Boston Post Road July 30.

Before completing his training Thursday, Jessamy was an exterior firefighter and couldn't go inside buildings when responding to a fire. Now, the New Rochelle High School graduate is officially an interior firefighter.

"Now, I actually get to go inside and help out," he said.

Jessamy owned a FedEx delivery route and truck in White Plains with his father, but decided to sell it in order to pursue his life-long dream of being a career firefighter. On March 5, he passed the New Rochelle and County civil service exams.

"Through the civil service exam you get ranked depending on your score on the test," said Collins, whose fire department is a combination of volunteer and career firefighters. "When we go to hire a career firefighter, we ask the county for the list to see what firefighters are eligible for the job."

The New Rochelle Fire Department responded to Jessamy and will issue him a physical in October. If they decide to hire him, he will attend an 18-week academy at the DES before achieving his dream.

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