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Fire Brigade Trains For Big Leagues

Inside the Farmingdale Fire Department, in front of large silver pots and pans, stands volunteer firefighter Phil LoNigro, advisor of the Farmingdale Fire Department’s Junior Brigade.


“It is essentially an early recruitment program,” LoNigro explained, as he ladled out a meatball. 


According to LoNigro, the Fire Department’s junior brigade program focuses on teaching kids, ages 13 to 17, about firefighting, in the hopes that they will one day become a member of the department. 


“They learn basic firefighting to advanced firefighting,” he said. “All the training that firefighters get, they get.” 


Each year, a portion of the proceeds raised from the department’s pasta night goes to help the Cohen Children’s Hospital. In addition, dinner guests were encouraged to bring an unwrapped toy to be donated to the children’s hospital. 


Several teens came out for this year's event; some were inspired by family members, others by neighbors and some just to give back. 


“I want to give back to the community,” said John Russo. “The toy drive is important because it will raise money for more training so we can become better and learn.”


According to Fire Chief Frank Romano, during pasta night the kids were taught how the fire department operates—from how to stretch a hose to how to put up ladders—as well as the administrative aspects.


“These are a great group of kids, very respectful, all hardworking, dedicated, and very polite,” Romano said. “There is a science to fires. The main thing is that they don’t get hurt by having a situational awareness of what is going on and what needs to be done.”


Based on the introductory training, Jonathan Ascatigno, 16, said that he already knows a lot of the standard procedures that the real firefighters go through. 


“Whatever the company needs we do. If there is a fire we can go out, but not on the main trucks, separately,” Ascatigno said. “We can change out the bottles [of air] because they don’t last very long. If you are in a fire, they only last 25 minutes. This way they don’t have to take off their packs.” 


Ascatigno said that one of the most surprising things he learned was how difficult it is to work with the weighted equipment. 


“People don’t realize that when you are in a fire you can’t stand up and walk around,” he added. “It’s a lot of weight you are dragging around, but it is fun and cool, something most people don’t get to do.”


The Farmingdale Fire Department’s Junior Brigade meets for training each Sunday, from 9 a.m.- noon.