Pilot Program Increasing Volunteer Firefighter Recruitment in Su - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Pilot Program Increasing Volunteer Firefighter Recruitment in Sussex County

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ROXANA, Del. - In Sussex County, there's a new program that's aiming to increase volunteer firefighting by training middle schoolers.

The Roxana Volunteer Fire Company hosts Operation GEM on the first Sunday of each month at their fire house. The cadets learn fire safety, firefighting techniques and EMS skills such as CPR. So far, the cadets have learned about Christmas tree fires, how to check smoke alarms, and how to extinguish a fire.  Roxana Fire Chief Chris Uibel started the program as a way to up recruitment. He says nowadays by the time kids turn 16 and are old enough to become a volunteer firefighter, they are already committed to other activities.

"Across the state, across the nation, volunteerism is down," he tells WBOC. "If we can introduce people at such a young age to what we do, we're not just firefighters, we're leaders throughout the communities."

Uibel says the program is already doing what it's designed to do, as they have two new firefighters, both parents of Operation GEM Cadets. In addition to the monthly meeting at the fire house, the fire company teaches a daily class at Millsboro Middle School. The students there have an identical curriculum to the fire house cadets, and recently all 24 students there became CPR certified.

Eleven-year-old Caleb Marvel is one of the cadets who's in the monthly program. He says he's made new friends through Operation GEM and also the skills he needs for his career ambitions: to be a firefighter.

"If you want to become a firefighter it will help you succeed goals both short term and long," he says.

Uibel says the program is open to any middle schooler on Delmarva. For more information, contact the Roxana Volunteer Fire Company.

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