HARVARD — Career day took on a whole new meaning when six local boys spent the day as firefighters.
Though they were exhausted after the long day, Justin Warren, 16; Brock Kenyan, 16; Nick Ostertag, 16; Tom Cooke, 18; Sean Fennefick, 16; and Aaron Kasabian, 15, couldn’t hide the smiles on their faces.
“It was fun,” said Ostertag.
The boys had a short safety briefing at the start of the day before experiencing the trials and tribulations of what it’s like to be firefighters.
Greg Harrod, volunteer firefighter and training officer, taught the boys how to put on the gear firefighters wear, including oxygen tanks.
“When you’re putting your gear on you always want to put your gloves under your knees,” he said. “That way you know where they are and your instructor can’t kick them away from you.”
Firefighters are required to get dressed in full equipment within a minute to pass the Fire Academy, Harrod said.
Once the boys were in their full equipment, he instructed them to put their fire-resistant hoods over their faces, blocking their vision for the search-and-rescue drill.
“What you have to do is keep moving,” Harrod told the boys as they crawled on the floor. “You can’t lose the wall.”
The boys worked in groups of three and were taught to crawl on the floor, reaching with their ax for the wall and holding onto each other’s legs.
Ostertag, grouped with Cooke and Kenyan, was at the front of the line when he found the “dummy” they were supposed to rescue.
“At first it was hard (to drag the dummy),” he said. “But my adrenaline was pumping, so it wasn’t that hard.”
The search and rescue was cool, said Kenyan, except for when they lost Ostertag.
“We lost Nick for awhile, but we went back and got him,” he said. “It’s hard (because you can’t see) and you run into things and get into tight, narrow spaces.”
The boys also learned how to control a fire hose that can pump out 140 pounds of water pressure.
The lesson was put to good use because the boys had to put out “controlled practice burns” for their final drill.
Kasabian said he most enjoyed putting out the practice burns and felt completely safe next to the fire.
“I knew I was in good hands,” he said. “And I knew the equipment was good.”
Chief Robert Mignard was pleased with the program. He praised volunteer Andrew Perry for planning it.
“I think it went really well,” said Mignard. “No one got hurt. They had fun and learned a lot. And they’re all smiling.
“Andrew came up with the idea as a means of raising public awareness, and it sounded like a good idea,” said the chief. “When these guys get to teach it helps them, too, and they loved it, and there are six high school boys grinning from ear to ear.”
The program, for Harvard residents and students, requires they each write a short essay for why they wanted to be a “Firefighter for a Day” before being accepted, said Perry.
Though each of the boys said they enjoyed the experience, none of them expected the amount of hard work firefighters go through.
“It gives you a whole new respect for what firefighters do,” said Cooke.
Each of the boys received a certificate and T-shirt for being part of the program.
“Wear those T-shirts with pride,” said Mignard. “You earned those T-shirts. You all did a great job, and you earned our respect.”
The Fire Department is planning to run the program annually for high school students and hopes to have a larger crowd next year.
“We were hoping for 12 kids,” said Perry. “We’re glad we got six. It was the perfect size (for the first year). It was very manageable, but next year, hopefully, we’ll have more.”