Bill expands duties of junior firefighters

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Assemblyman Parker Space (R-Sussex, Warren, Morris) announced that support is growing for his legislation to allow members of junior firefighter’s auxiliaries to perform certain non-hazardous duties during training and at the scene of a fire or other emergency.

“Junior firefighters provide key support for the volunteer fire departments in our region,” said Space, a third-generation volunteer firefighter and former fire chief. “After meeting with constituents and fire professionals, we realized the current law needs to be updated in order to continue to allow junior firefighters to be able to do the on-scene support and specific training they have done for many years.”

The bill delineates specific non-hazardous duties that a junior firefighter’s auxiliary member may perform during training or at a fire scene or emergency based on the age of the member and the type of training they may receive. In addition, it updates the language used in the current statute to be gender neutral. The bill was referred to the Assembly Law and Public Safety Committee.

Sussex County Fire Marshal Virgil Rome and Vee Rumsey, a grandmother of a female junior firefighter, brought the idea to the attention of Space.

“On behalf of all the fire departments in Sussex County, I am appreciative of Assemblyman Space’s support of our junior firefighters,” said Rome. “As the current law is being interpreted, many junior firefighters are being relegated to just attending meetings and observing emergency scenes. The lack of activity would start to discourage our youth from becoming junior firefighters at the detriment of our volunteer firefighters.”

"I’m fighting for this for all the kids who want to follow in their grandparents’ or parents’ footsteps, especially for my granddaughter Abigail, a Hampton Township Fire and Rescue junior firefighter,” Rumsey said. “I am thankful that Assemblyman Space took the time to meet with us and to spearhead this effort in the Assembly.”

Space said the experience as a junior firefighter would not only encourage teenagers to eventually become a volunteer firefighter where they live, but could also encourage them to become professional career firefighters in some of our larger cities outside the area.

Other bill sponsors include Assembly Speaker Pro Tempore Gordon Johnson (D-Bergen) and Assemblyman Joe Howarth (R- Atlantic, Burlington and Camden). Space’s district colleague Assemblyman Hal Wirths is a co-sponsor.

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