Student Firefighter Volunteers Learn More than Fire Safety Skills on the Job

‘I picked up the skill of teamwork, which is an incredibly important skill to have.’ – Noah Hirschhorn. Photo supplied

When Briarcliff High School senior Noah Hirschhorn was three years old, he would visit a firehouse every day with his mother, where members would show him around the station and let him sit in the fire trucks. 

Little did he know that years later he would be a volunteer member himself and would have the chance to not only take a part in calls, but also learn invaluable life skills. 

Hirschhorn is one of three Briarcliff High School students who are volunteers at Engine 92 at Briarcliff Manor. 

“Both of my parents have a history in emergency service, so when I was 14 and found out that the fire department had a junior firefighting program that I could join, I jumped at the opportunity,” said senior Daniel Sugrue. “I went on to fully join the department when I was 16.” 

Daniel and Noah’s enthusiasm inspired their friend, senior Leo Pushkin, to join as well. 

“All it took was a two-hour conversation with Daniel and I was hooked,” Pushkin said. “And the more training in did, the more interested I became.” 

At age 16, students who wish to join the fire department can do so as exterior members but at 18, they can take a course called Firefighter I and become interior members. 

“It’s over 140 hours over several months and it seems like a lot, but it goes by fast,” Pushkin said. 

In addition to the course, Hirschhorn and Sugrue have taken additional courses to further their knowledge and firefighting skills. One of the skills taught would be learning to use extrication tools.

But firefighting skills are not the only skills they picked up. 

“Being a volunteer firefighter has taught me organization, time-management and discipline,” Pushkin said. “It taught me to focus on certain things and block out what’s not important. And my testing scores have improved.” 

‘I learned adaptability and problem-solving and the ability to work with a variety of people.’ – Daniel Sugrue. Photo supplied

His friends agree.  

“I learned adaptability and problem-solving and the ability to work with a variety of people,” Sugrue said.  

“I picked up the skill of teamwork, which is an incredibly important skill to have,” Hirschhorn said. “It reinforces the importance of working together and how you need others to help you, and that has helped me in other areas – most importantly at school, where we work in groups.” 

As a volunteer firefighter, the students get paged when there is a call. They then drive to the fire station, where they get in gear and hop on the rig. 

“We get around 500 calls per year and we need to respond to a minimum of five percent of those calls, plus attend six drills, six meetings and be CPR-certified,” Pushkin said. 

Sugrue, who has gone to close to 50% of the calls, plans to become a career firefighter after he graduates this summer. 

“I will attend the University of New Haven in the fall and major in fire science,” he said. 

Hirschhorn also plans on attending the University of New Haven and plans to major in Homeland Security and emergency management with a minor in fire science. 

“I am not sure what the future holds for me, but I know I will be serving in a community in some capacity,” Hirschhorn said. “I’m hoping to join Allingtown volunteer fire department when I’m at college.” 

Pushkin will attend Syracuse University, where he plans to pursue selected studies in education. 

“I am also considering being a career firefighter,” he said. “Either way, I am going to volunteer at a fire department in the area.” 

Although structure fires only occur once per year, there are many calls related to motor vehicle accidents and fire alarms.  

“A few months ago, we were on a call for a chimney fire that spread into the attic of a house and I helped pull siding off the chimney to expose the inside to make sure the fire wasn’t still burning,” Sugrue said. “I am very appreciative that I was able to help in a meaningful way.” 

Hirschhorn also had an incident where he was able to use his training. 

“The first motor vehicle fire that I extinguished had a deep effect on me,” he said. “I saw the header of the fire from the distance, so I knew it was cooking. When I got out of the truck, I saw the car on fire and my training kicked in.” 

Hirschhorn and Sugrue received recognition for their work. 

Hirschhorn received a scholarship provided by the Firefighters Association of the State of New York for high school students affiliated with a volunteer or EMS department. 

“They select 25 recipients and I was fortunate to be one of the 25. I plan to put the money towards college tuition,” he said. 

Sugrue was recently recognized on the Putnam Northern Westchester BOCES social media channels for receiving the “Firefighter of the Year” award from his company. 

“It is given to one firefighter each year as a symbol of recognition and of the accomplishments of the past year,” he said. “I had gone on the most calls in my company and I had taken two classes and became nationally certified in firefighting.” 

All three students would like to encourage other Briarcliff students to join them, as the fire department is always looking for volunteers. 

“I would encourage any student who is considering being a volunteer firefighter in high school to speak to one of us and learn what we are all about,” Hirschhorn said. 

“It is an amazing experience and learning environment – you are surrounded by great people that you bond with and become family, plus you get to do fun things and help your community,” Sugrue said. 

“I love it – I love all of it,” Pushkin said. “The excitement, the training. I recommend this to anyone in Briarcliff who is 16 and over. It’s a big family – in a month you’ll know everyone. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Yes, it’s a huge commitment but what you get out of it is more than anything you could get at this age. It is the best thing I have ever done.”

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