Oakmont welcomes its first junior firefighter
Oakmont officials welcomed the first junior firefighter in the history of the borough’s volunteer fire department.
Joey Flanick, 17, of Oakmont was sworn in by Mayor Christopher Whaley at a council workshop meeting Monday .
Fire Chief David Carroll and other firefighters were on-hand to celebrate the historic moment.
“We were founded in 1903,” Carroll said. “To have a young, energetic, intelligent young man like Joey Flanick come on board for us, this is a big night for us. The volunteers within the volunteer fire service are dwindling nationwide. We felt we needed to get younger folks involved. We couldn’t have asked for a better person to come on board at this particular time.”
A state legislative study late last year described the falling numbers of volunteer firefighters as a crisis with numbers plummeting from an estimated 300,000 in the 1970s to about 38,000 currently.
The Oakmont fire department rewrote its bylaws earlier this year to have a junior firefighter program. Its previous set of rules stipulated a person could not join the department until age 21.
The new rules allow 16- and 17-year-olds to join as juniors, and those 18 and older can be firefighters.
There are currently about 20 active Oakmont firefighters with 41 being the average age.
Joey said he’s excited to have the opportunity to respond to calls along side his father, assistant fire Chief Joe Flanick.
“I’m excited to see what I can do now,” he said. “My dad was always around (firefighters), so I was always around with him. I was always around different fire halls like Oakmont and kind of liked it.”
Carroll said the junior firefighter program adheres to all state standards. They cannot climb onto roofs, enter burning buildings and have time restrictions when it comes to answering calls and related activities.
Joey’s entering his senior year at Riverview High School. He plans on going through fire academy training and starting the process of becoming a full-fledged firefighter when he turns 18 in December.
Joey said he plans to refurbish the department’s New York hook, a tool used for pulling and prying things. It was damaged during a fire at a Penn Hills plaza.
Joe Flanick has been with the department 22 years, including the last three as assistant chief.
“I’m proud and nervous,” the father said. “Proud of him and nervous of what’s to come for him. He was always around our drill nights and cleanup nights putting forth effort and going the extra mile. He wasn’t just standing around drinking pop or something. He was always busy.”
Whaley said it was an honor to swear in the junior firefighter.
“I’m very happy the fire department developed the program, and that the borough went along with it to help engage younger generations in being part of volunteering in their community,” Whaley said. “It’s good that we’re taking efforts to try and bring numbers (of volunteers) back. (Joey) lives down the block from me. He’s always been a very respectful, well-mannered kid.”
Oakmont firefighters responded to about 230 calls last year.
Flanick said the department has 25 roster spots and have been at least five short for decades.
Those who want to join can call 412-828-3134 for more information.
Michael DiVittorio is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Michael at 412-871-2367, [email protected] or via Twitter .