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Junior firefighter critically burned in PA training exercise. Brush pile doused with gasoline.

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In Pennsylvania’s Jackson Township, Monroe County Monday night, a 16-year-old junior firefighter with the Jackson Township Volunteer Fire Company received first, second and third degree burns during a training exercise. Reporter Laurie Monteforte with WBRE-TV, WYOU-TV reports the teenager is in critical condition after a brush pile was doused with gasoline and set on fire.

According to Monteforte, there are investigations underway by the Pennsylvania State Police Fire Marshal, Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry and the Jackson Township Fire Company.

The training took place on Mountain Spring Drive and was supposed to teach newer members about nozzles and other equipment.

Here’s more from

It was supposed to be a controlled burn but things quickly got out of control. Someone used a 2.5 gallon can of gas to start the fire. Chief Wolcott said,”They were gonna use a little bit of gas and it was just a little too much gas.” 

The chief said there was a big flash. He also said the young man apparently did not have his fire suit jacket closed properly. He suffered burns on his arm, neck, and shoulder. Wolcott added,”Myself and the Assistant Chief were not on the scene. We had a younger junior officer underneath us who was doing the controlled burn with them.

State Fire Commissioner Ed Mann was disappointed to hear about the incident. He told Eyewitness News certified instructors are supposed to oversee junior trainees during burns. Mann said since gas was used it is unlikely that an officially trained officer was there. He said someone with the proper training would have made sure the boy was suited up properly and would not have allowed anyone to use gas. He noted, “Gas is just absolutely too volatile to be used as an accelerant with anything. Do not use it period. I do not care the amount.”

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Click here for Jackson Township VFC website.


Comments - Add Yours

  • Jay

    another nominee for the Darwin award…

  • Joe

    You can’t fix stupid, no excuse for this, heads better roll

  • Jerry DeRosa

    Some say i am to strict in regards to our Rules concerning our Jr. firefighter program but this is the reason.The State Guidelines are there for protecting all of us.

  • Mack Seagrave

    The Chief’s TV interview indicates that he was aware that the drill was going to take place and that it would be done under the command of one of his ‘younger … junior officers’. This indicates that the drill was done with the Chief’s approval and overseen by an officer that he deemed capable and qualified to do so. From his statement, the Chief appears to be okay with using gasoline as an accelerant to light a training fire as long as ‘too much’ gasoline isn’t used. I wonder if someone was assigned to be the safety officer at this live fire training, if so it appears that whoever had that assignment failed to check the junior firefighter’s PPE to make sure it was being worn correctly and also was okay with the use of gasoline to accelerate the fire. Let’s hope for a speedy recovery for the injured youngster. Let’s also hope that the results of the investigation are able to determine why this happened and what person(s) were responsible. And finally, let’s hope that definite action is taken to insure that only properly trained, certified and competent individuals are placed in command of this fire company as well as it’s training program so that both firefighters and civilians are safe.

  • Northern Chief

    Take Ownership Chief, doesn’t matter if you were there or not! I would think that this type of behavior has probably occurred before and that’s how the “Junior Officer” learned it. This is something that should have never occurred. There must have been at least one person there that knew gasoline and matches aren’t good together. Lets just hope that this young man isn’t scarred for life and that this changes some poor behavior….

  • Anonymous

    Stunned that crap like this happens. If this was authorized by a senior officer, I hope they face very harsh consequences.

  • Fire fighters in the family

    Shame on the chief!!! Several mistakes here that are inexcusable, sheer negligence period! A speedy recovery for the poor innocent injured trainee.

  • Truckie88

    Here we go with Pennsylvania firefighter training again! I understand some PA Vol Depts have no requirements for members to pass “state” certified training programs!

  • He

    Here is an excerpt from the Pennsylvania Labor Law.

    Child Labor Law
    Act of 1915, P.L. 286, No. 177

    16- and 17-year-old minors who have completed a fire training course (such as one given at a county fire school) may participate in firefighting activities if they are under the direct supervision of the fire chief or an experienced line officer.
    Here is a link, copy and paste to your browser if interested

    I am familiar with this department as they are in the county adjoining ours, updated info is that the Pennsylvania State Police Fire Marshall is also investigating.

  • Vinny DeVita

    The PA.Child labor laws have three pages of laws regarding junior fire fighters. It seems no one reads them. They are designed to protect the child from being burned, killed or mistreated. I’ve seen this happen before, the chief or the parent don’t want to discourage the child. I hope the junior makes a full recovery and is not turned off by stupid people. But laws are made to protect or remove any doubt of whats right and whats not. I can hear the attorney’s chant, sue baby sue!

  • ron anderson

    Heads should roll, and that includes the chief. NO EXCUSE here at all… Do not blame a junior officer as where is a safety officer and a chief ?? Your FD screwed up …..Almost 40 years on the line and have never used gasoline to start a training fire… Even Fire Chiefs and junior officers should know that !!!!!!!!!!

  • Pingback: A Little Bit of Gas, a Whole Lot of Stupid – Backstep Firefighter()

  • Mike

    In this era of firefighting this should be considered a criminal act! Foolish acts like this are why we have such a hard time using acquiered structures for realistic training.

  • Yoder

    Why is a sixteen year old BOY playing fireman? What the heck is a “junior firefighter?” I have herd of a junior senator, but not a junior fireman! Since when can be a teenager be a “trainee?” I thought to be a firefighter you have to at least have some degree under your belt, be an EMT, and be at least twenty-one. I realize every part of the nation has their own hiring requirments for firemen, but a sixteen year old??? How can that even be legal? The military won’t even take him yet, even if his Pop signed papers to take him to boot camp they wouldn’t! Am I the only one slightly disturbed when I read a “sixteen year old trainee?” It seems that way. Where is the Department of Labor? The FD is ran by the govt, where are the regulations? I am just mind boggled that a sixteen year old CHILD was allowed to go hang out during a fire with actual firemen. I know there are “Explorer” programs for law enforcement,and I don’t think that is safe or a good idea either to let a young boy run around with policemen while they are on duty. However, I am very surprised there is some program for kids like that dealing with exposures to fires,chemicals and gasses. It is great this youngster has such heroic goals and dedication, has a life plan, and wants to be a firemen. I hope he can someday, but firefighting isn’t a club or hobby, after school hang-out, or summer social organization for the kiddos. If this boy likes community service and uniformed type work, he can join The Scouts. They wear nice crisp uniforms, teach the importance of being a patriot and good Christian, teach about helping other Americans,volunteering, being polite, having a good conscience, being honest and responsible, trustworthy,and they teach valueable skills about survial and camping that all boys need, and they teach some first responder stuff. The Boy Scouts also take them on tours of fire hourses and police stations. They can prepare the boy and give him the resources and contacts to start the path to being a fireman when he turns twenty-one. However, firefighting is a grown man’s job, and the extent to any “job shadowing” should be limited to a very well supervised, limited, two hour citizen “ride-a-long” where the shadower doesn’t leave the fire engine, and isn’t allowed to go on calls that are anything more than very minor fires and maybe a few car accidents. You’d never see an “Explorer” programs for boys trailing around with EMT’s and paramedics. You can’t let high school students handle someone’s healthcare and life in an ALS situation, or even BLS (and no sophmore year first aid training isn’t the same as BLS and ALS training people, so don’t start trying to use that as a justification for a teenager toting around in an ambulance with trained medics.)Calling this kid a “trainee.” Are you serious? No wonder this happened, there is a total lack of adult supervision and organization.And what is with the boy’s father letting him do this? No fire depatment worth its weight would have kiddos out there with them dancing around in fire and dressing up in playtime fireman costumes. They are lucky this all that happened! If he had been involved in an actual structure fire, instead of a training scenario because a woman and her children, or a senior citizen, or a college girl trapped in her dorm, could have been hurt trying to depend on him to get them out safely and it clearly would have been a calamity!

    • FOBS


      Spell check is your friend.

    • mark

      Where to start, oh most ignorant Statter poster.

      One has to have a degree or be an EMT to be a FF? Maybe in some states, but far from all states. Here in MI one can’t even be certified until one is “sponsored” by a dept. Meaning you can go through the class and pass, but won’t get the state certificate. You can have a master’s in fire science or whatever and it doesn’t matter.

      And the 21 thing? Seriously? I could be wrong, but aren’t most places using 18, the same age that one can join the military? Pretty silly to think that the military is less dangerous than the fire service.

      There are Explorer programs for the fire service, too. Where have you been?

      As for the rest, should high schoolers remain in their rooms until coming of age? Nothing remotely dangerous other than maybe a spitball or paperwad? Heaven forbid we have children involved in things they might be interested in.

      As for this situation, someone screwed up, big time. And is flat out stupid. I hope the kid recovers, but Yoder, you’re throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

  • He

    I agree with Mike 100%. I didn’t want to say it (imagine that), but I definitely think there should be criminal charges. How many times are we going to kill or injure our own people before we learn. Throw the book at them, then sue them. If they go out of business, so be it. I would rather see my home burn to the ground than see any human being suffer from this type of injury.
    Burns are the worst injury, horrifying.

  • No.1 Sttatter Fan from Virginia

    The important thing is that I hope the kid is recovering and responding to treatment. It’s terrible that it happened and we need to pray for him and his family. I would also like to address the rant from “Yoder”. I happened to know someone who was a so called “Junior Fireman”. This individual started out as a volunteer when he was 16. He had good role models and people who were willing to train him and show him the ropes of how to be a fireman. He recieved state training and also earned his EMT Basic certification when he was 16. There were limits on what he could do, but for the most part he participated in emergency response activites and work around the station. This kid grew up to be a man, advanced his training, and has served as a Chief of Department and Deputy Chief of his volunteer department. He was also promoted to Captain at his career department (a major metropolitian department) where he has worked for the last 15 years. He aint turned out half bad, and alot of his sucess in his field came from starting out real young surounded by people who looked after him and took care of him. Not all junior fire man programs are bad. I do hope the boy gets better soon.

  • Jim Miller

    Who put the gasoline there to begin with? The Chief? The chief knew that gas was to be use to get it going. He needs to have his big ass kicked off the dept.

    There is no excuse whatsoever to use gasoline to fuel any type of fire. Kerosene would have been a better choice!

  • Amazed

    Actually, Yoder.. there are numerous fire departments all over the country that have cadet programs for high school age kids to learn the ropes & get a leg up on their careers. Just as there are police explorers etc. Perhaps you should do some research before going on rants like that. Bigger concern should be that this kid heals & recovers.

    • CHAOS

      Yeah, Yoder has a lot of “thoughts” that are inaccurate and show that he is poorly informed. Kinda makes you wonder where he’s been spending his time that he never “herd” of a junior firefighter.

      Anyway, hope the boy makes a full, rapid recovery.

      And, I sincerely hope those responsible are held fully responsible.

  • capthoco

    Ok so some one tell me the ‘training’ benefit of burning a brush pile.

  • AbsoluteReality

    My son began as a FF Cadet at age 14.
    Became a Vollie at 18.
    USFS Wildland FF at 20.
    And is now in mid-career at the current rank of PM/FF Captain.

    We often used burning brush piles for urban-interface fire extinguishment training.
    Additionally, used them for fire shelter training surrounding the safe-deployment zone.
    Gave the folks an idea of the area getting hotter and hotter while inside the shelter.

    Of course, we ALWAYS had charged line hose teams in full PPEs and SAFETY Officer(s)
    ready to order immediate extinguishment.

    NEVER any horse-play or gasoline allowed.!!!

  • rex freeway

    Gasoline is to be used as a fuel in a gas tank. Period. Never to be used as a fire starter

  • Former Chief

    Junior Firefighter or Cadet programs are very useful to the fire service. But, just like our FD’s, paid or volunteer, they must be properly run with clear policies and procedures established and followed. Also, paid or volunteer, we should be projecting a professional image to the public. Does anyone other than me feel this Chief is not projecting that image?

  • cgs

    Last time I checked, anyone under the age of 18 in PA could not participate in ANY live fire excercise. Did this law change??? As far as Ed Mann being disapointed, he was the same guy that told me he can not implement a minimum set of training standards across the state. So really, he has no reason to be disapointed because he helps allow firefighters and officers in the state to operate with out any set minimum qualifications. I hope the kid gets better and I hope the station actually prints out the laws for junior firefighters and folows them from now on.