MAMARONECK, N.Y. John Dyer faces very different challenges as a prospective firefighter than his grandfather did 30 years ago, but they share the same dedication to emergency services, a field the rising high school junior wants to pursue to the top.
"There have always been discussions of fires and firefighting growing up, and now it's great to talk to him about it -- how it's different, how fire departments operate today, and how they did 30 years ago," said Dyer, a junior firefighter with the Town of Mamaroneck Fire Department.
Dyer, a Larchmont resident, first got involved with the fire department through the Explorers program, which is designed as a building block for 14 to 18 year old students who may be interested in the career path, or just helping the community.
"I've always wanted to be a part of the Explorers program because my grandfather was a volunteer firefighter in Larchmont," said Dyer, who wants to lead the Department of Emergency Services for Westchester after college. "When I turned the age to become an Explorer, that was the first thing I did."
This past April, Dyer moved up from the Explorers program to the junior firefighters program, which is for 16 and 17 year olds. Both attend monthly meetings, participate in all of the normal drills and act as secondary support around the exterior of fires, but junior firefighters are considered members of the fire department.
"Being an Explorer, you're not really considered a member yet," Dyer said. "I was considered the firehouse watchdog. You kind of just hang out, learn what it's all about before you become a junior firefighter. It's like an experimental period being an Explorer."
Dyer, who is also the vice president of the Mamaroneck High School's American Red Cross Club, will go through a similar process when he joins the Larchmont Volunteer Ambulance Corp.
The next step in the Fire Department is to take the 87 hours of Firefighter 1 training when he turns 18 to become an interior firefighter. Training is held at the Westchester County Fire Training facility in Valhalla, where Dyer went through all of the simulations someone training for Firefighter 1 would during Explorers and Junior Firefighters Day June 4.
"It was the exact scenario of being in a burning building, or having to get someone out of a burning building," he said. "It was an experience of a lifetime."
At the training facility, Dyer and other prospective firefighters used their scott pack (air tank) while doing a simulated building search, something his grandfather never had.
"When he was a volunteer, they didnt have the air packs and bunker pants, all they had was the three-quarter boots," Dyer said. "That was your only source of protection."
One thing that hasn't changed, however, is the "brotherhood.
"They call it the brotherhood because you never know, maybe that guy behind you will save your life or youll save that guys life," he said. "Thats the cool part about the fire department is that everybody helps each other out. In the firehouse, theres always a bit of joking around going on, but when that bell goes off, everyones all serious."
Click here to sign up for Daily Voice's free daily emails and news alerts.