East Norwich teens learn what it’s like to be a firefighter


Lesson number one for the teenagers enrolled at fire camp was probably that actual fires are very hot, especially when wearing all of the equipment firefighters are required to wear. The six-day program, held from July 24 to July 29, was an opportunity for them to experience hands-on firefighting training wearing authentic fire gear in a safe environment at the Nassau Fire Service Academy in Old Bethpage.

Jayce Cody, Colleen Joyce, both 16, and Mary Grace Syrett, 15, of East Norwich, took part in the camp. It was the second time for Cody and Syrett, and the first for Joyce. All three are members of the East Norwich Juniors squad, which is sponsored by the East Norwich Fire Department. They not only learned about firefighting and lifesaving skills, but also community leadership.

Of Nassau County’s 71 fire departments, 43 have junior programs.

“This is our third year doing the camp,” said firefighter Jerry Presta, East Norwich Fire Department’s junior adviser and chairman of the Nassau County Juniors, who runs the runs the camp. “Out of the 43 fire departments, 23 sent teenagers to the fire camp this year.”

The fire camp, which is referred to as Fahrenheit 516, added an extra day this year to include an EMS component. “The camp didn’t have it the past two years,” said Presta, adding that in years past it was a five-day program. “A couple of the kids said they were interested in it, so we added it to the camp. They learned about EMS all day on Saturday.”

Presta said that the EMS Academy sponsored the day for the juniors. And the week of fire camp was sponsored this year by an anonymous donor, who gave $11,000. The past two years it was funded by the county’s fire departments.

The juniors took part in search-and-rescue exercises, learning how to “bail out” from a second-story window, to use fire extinguishers effectively and put out live car and warehouse fires.

The fire camp was created by the Nassau County Junior Firefighter Association and Nassau County Fire Service Academy.