The North Judson-Wayne Township Fire Department may soon be adding some younger firefighters. The North Judson Town Council approved a recommendation Monday from Fire Chief Joe Leszek to lower the department’s minimum age from 21 to 19.
It’s part of an effort to recruit more volunteer firefighters at a time when increased training requirements discourage many people from joining. “For new firemen to come on and actually be able to be put into service, it takes them about five months of their own time,” Leszek says. “The classes work four hours every Monday and six hours every Saturday for five months, before we can actually get them out responding to calls. With that big of a time commitment as a volunteer, of course we’re not getting a lot of people beating down our doors.”
He says there’s also a formal test, which sometimes intimidates older volunteers, “Once they finish their training, they have to go to Ivy Tech, and Ivy Tech proxies a test. A lot of guys get scared off by that. We’re hoping maybe with some younger people still in college themselves or just getting out of high school within the last year or so, maybe it’s not so much of a culture shock and get some guys that are really gung-ho in wanting to be firemen.”
As part of the new requirements, firefighters under the age of 21 will not be allowed to drive a town vehicle, and they’ll have to follow the rules of probationary members. The Town Council unanimously approved the changes, following approval by members of the fire department.
Also during Monday’s meeting, Leszek updated the council on some security upgrades taking place at the fire department, “We actually purchased out of funds that we raised, we installed 10 security cameras inside the firehouse, and the way it’s working right now is there is a DVR upstairs that is recording everything. Every door is covered; every bay is covered. And then what happens is, if someone comes through a firehouse door, all the officers get a text and a photo of who’s coming through the door.”
The council also approved the payment of just over a thousand dollars for window tinting at the firehouse. Leszek says the work will not only prevent people from peering into the building, but also help with heating and cooling costs. Town officials hope the security upgrades will lead to lower insurance payments.
The town’s insurance company had also recommended that firefighters show proof of personal vehicle liability insurance. Leszek says firefighters are starting to turn their forms in, with all of them expected to be on file by the beginning of next month.