Jake and Alexis of Upwey Fire Brigade
Investing in youth is key for Upwey Fire Brigade, whose Junior program is a core function of their brigade.
The Junior program allows 11-15-year-olds to learn basic firefighting skills. At Upwey, the program extends to 16-year-olds, allowing the members to learn a little more before undertaking their General Firefighter course age 17.
Jake Pancutt is one of four Junior Leaders at Upwey. Inspired by his father Cliff, Captain of Upwey Fire Brigade, Jake is passionate about investing in the future of the brigade.
“When I first joined as a Junior, my dad was the Junior Coordinator and running the Junior program at Upwey,” Jake said.
“After I moved on to become a senior member, I gained some more experience then wanted to come back and help out. Now I love it, and I just want to keep helping and continue to grow that next generation of firefighters.”
At 26 years old, Jake said his favourite thing about his role as Junior Leader is watching the kids flourish.
“I love to watch the development within the kids – going from when they first sign up when they’re 11 years old to when they turn 16 or 17 and start to go through their General Firefighter Course, the knowledge they already have going into that course gives them such an advantage. Then seeing them on the fireground at a later date once they’re senior firefighters is just such an awesome feeling.”
The knowledge gained within the Junior program has a range of benefits for the kids, Jake said.
“They develop so well as senior firefighters and have that upper hand coming into the program, which is awesome, but it also gives them that basic understanding of fire knowledge – things such as house fire safety, so that if they were to have a house fire at that age, they actually have an idea of what to do.”
Alexis, 16, is a member of Upwey’s Junior program, and was also inspired by her family to join up.
“I was 11 when I joined CFA. My dad started and the whole reason he joined was to help people and get closer with the community, and I thought ‘oh, I want to join since there’s a Junior program!’. Mum signed up, she became the Junior Coordinator, and it became a family thing.”
Alexis is thankful for the skills she’s learned.
“The program really puts you on a good track and it does put a lot into perspective and gives you a lot of skills you never thought you’d develop. For example, I knew it was a good idea to have a home fire escape plan, but I never really understood why it was so important, but the second I learnt how fatal they can be, I knew I wanted a plan, I asked my family ‘what is our plan?’.
“Then there’s things like first aid – I’ve had to perform that a couple of times and if I wasn’t there to do it, what else could have happened? So it puts a lot of skills in your belt that you didn’t know you could have.”
Her favourite memory is going to State Championships as a team.
“We really connect with each other when we’re at State, it’s like a little family. We don’t go to win, but the motivation we all get to try and do our best is so awesome to see, it’s really fun.”
“State Championships is definitely one of my favourite things about being a Junior Leader. The growth between the juniors and how they develop as a team, it’s amazing to see, it’s such a great teambuilding thing. That’s definitely the thing I love most.”
CFA is highlighting our Junior Volunteer Development Program as part of Youth Fest, a celebration of young people that runs for the month of September. Find out more here.