EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

July 13, 2013

N.H. fire academy offers teens a unique experience

N.H. academy offers a week-long recruit training

By John Toole

---- — Some kids spend summer around the campfire.

T.J. Parhiala and Laurel Urwick just returned from a summer camp where they learned about firefighting.

For more than two decades, the New Hampshire Fire Explorer Training Academy has given local youngsters a chance to experience what it’s like to be a firefighting recruit, the week-long program is intense — physically and educationally.

The two teenagers are members of the Fire Explorers, which helps students explore their interest in the fire service.

T.J., 16, is with the Salem Fire Department Explorers. Urwick, 18, is with the Kingston and East Kingston Explorers.

They attended the week-long 22nd Annual Fire Explorer Training Academy in Concord.

Laurel isn’t planning a career in firefighting, though her father, Scott, and her mother, Julie, work in East Kingston as firefighter and emergency medical technician, respectively.

But the college-bound student aims to serve as a volunteer firefighter while pursuing a teaching career.

“It’s kind of exciting when the alarms go off,” Laurel said. “It’s fun to get out of bed to go help someone.”

T.J., son of Joyce and Thomas Parhiala, is a Salem High junior who has an internship lined up with Salem Fire Department for the coming year.

He wants to follow his uncle, retired Londonderry fire Chief Ronald Raymond, into a firefighting career.

“He hopes to go to the New Hampshire Fire Academy,” his mother said.

Laurel said the Explorers split their week between the classroom and training.

“Even if you’re not with the fire service, it is cool to try,” she said.

While most kids are there to try out firefighting, the program also provides lessons in teamwork and communication, she said.

Laurel returned for her second year at the training academy.

She practiced rappelling and forest firefighting skills this year.

Next year, she plans to return for the third-year program, where students learning about breathing gear and search and rescue.

“They do a live burn,” she said.

T.J. had the first-year experience.

Laurel did that last year.

“They teach you the basics,” she said.

Students learn how to get inside a house without breaking down the door and how to help the injured trapped in a car, Laurel said.