In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown in 2020, Alna Fire Chief Mike Trask invited his son, Austin Trask, to the fire station as a way to get out of the house.
“Kids, basically all of sudden, have no school – you’re hanging around the house,” Mike Trask said. “So I invited him down. It was his choice.”
Little more than two years later, Mike Trask’s suggestion to his son would become the genesis of what is now the Alna junior firefighting team, a part of the Alna Volunteer Fire Department.
Today, the team is currently made up four teenagers from Alna, consisting of Austin Trask, 17; Emily-Leigh Moody, 15; Peter Rego, 14; and Ethan Barter, 17.
Just like Austin Trask, Rego and Moody were invited to visit to the department by family members. Moody was invited by her stepfather, Mike Averill, and joined the department just a few weeks ago. Rego has been tagging along with his father, Mike Rego, to the fire station for the past three years, since he was about 11 years old.
Barter sought out the Alna Volunteer Fire Department a little more than a year ago after reaching out to the Jefferson Fire Department to see if they had junior members. With no opportunities available for him in Jefferson, Barter came to Alna.
“They are a great department, they just didn’t have anything for me so I came here,” Barter said.
As members of the department, the junior firefighters can be on scene for a call, but are not allowed to participate until they are 18 years old, according to Mike Trask.
“We just stand back and let those that know what they are doing do the work,” Barter said of his time on call.
Junior firefighters can participate in training and help perform regular maintenance checks on department equipment and vehicles.
Despite not being able to help on the scene, two of the junior firefighters, Austin Trask, and Rego, are already certified by the state of Maine as having completed basic training. Last summer they had completed the training which includes going into a burning building with full gear to extinguish a fire.
“It was difficult to see with all the smoke in the building,” Austin Trask said. “It was also really hot.”
Mike Trask said each junior firefighter has a fully trained adult member with them as they enter the burning training facility to assist and ensure safety.