It has been said that when men and women become firefighters, their greatest act of bravery has been accomplished. What they do after that is all in the line of work.
Noah Romkey is passionate about making firefighting his line of work.
The Lunenburg resident is fully trained and eager to serve his community. Problem is, he’s underage and not permitted to step foot on a Lunenburg fire scene, or even in a fire truck, until he turns 19 in May.
Meanwhile, Noah is counting the days and continues training with the junior members of the Lunenburg and District Fire Department, where his father, Darren, has served for 32 years, the last six as chief.
A recent graduate — some would say survivour — of the rigorous 16-week training program at the Nova Scotia Firefighters School in Waverly, Noah is now certified as both a Level 1 and Level 2 firefighter.
He also successfully completed courses in hazmat awareness and operations, and motor vehicle extrication, and obtained certification as a medical first responder. Following his fire school experience, Noah spent six weeks participating in on-the-job training with Halifax Regional Fire and Emergency.
“I wanted to be a firefighter my whole life,” said the amicable, level-headed teenager. “I joined as a junior on my 12th birthday. I remember my first practice like it was yesterday. I was short and skinny back then and they couldn’t find pants to fit me, so I had to hold up my pants with bungee cords.”
Noah said he enjoyed being a junior, participating in juniors-only weekends when he and other young men and women would practise live-fire exercises, vehicle extrication, rapelling and other drills.
“The senior members of various fire departments gave up their free time to train us. It was awesome.”
Darren, an Emergency Health Services paramedic by trade, is understandably proud Noah is charting a career path that he has dreamed about since before he was a toddler.
“Even before Noah could walk I would put him in his car seat and take him to the fire hall. He learned all about the trucks and what they were used for, and wasn’t shy about correcting people,” said Darren.
“Our rescue truck was in an accident and Noah, then four years old, heard my wife telling her friend about it. She said truck 2 got in an accident. Noah quickly corrected her, telling her it was truck 4.”
Darren said he and his wife are confident Noah will go far in the fire service. “If he keeps the same positive attitude and love for firefighting, he will be a great firefighter wherever he ends up.”
Noah shared his thoughts on the day he learned his application to the fire school was accepted.
“Just after my high school exams my friends and I were sitting in McDonald’s restaurant waiting for our food. When my phone vibrated I took it outside to answer it. A person at the fire school told me I had been accepted. I went back in and told my friends, ‘I’m going to be a firefighter.’ That was the best McDonald’s hamburger I ever had,” said Noah.
Noah, who also found time to play hockey and serve in the 39 Neptune Sea Cadets in Lunenburg for six years, found the first day at fire school somewhat intimidating.
“I didn’t know anyone and had no idea what the instructors were like. Right from the first day the instructors try to get to you to see who might have what it takes to become a firefighter, and they try to break you. It was pretty cool that our class of 21 students made it through the first few days,” said Noah.
“Halfway through the course a few people left. At the end of the training 18 graduated, including the only two females in our class. We went to school five days a week and I enjoyed every minute of it.”
Components of the Level 1 certification included hose lays, fire streams, ropes and knots, ladders, search and rescue, fire control and vehicle extrication.
Level 2 components included a higher level of knowledge and technical subjects, such as fire alarm systems, and fire protection systems — sprinklers, heat alarms and smoke detectors.
“We had two weeks to get through the hazmat textbook, which deals with awareness of how to handle scene operations, and hazards you might face. We also learned about evacuation protocols,” said Noah.
When he arrived at his assigned Clayton Park station for his six-week on-the-job training with Halifax Regional Fire and Emergency, Noah joined a platoon responsible for a ladder truck.
“Basically I was one of the guys on a crew that responded to real emergency calls, and I did everything the firefighters on my crew did,” said Noah. “On my first shift we had three calls. The first was a vehicle versus pedestrian incident, followed by a motor vehicle collision in a roundabout, then a sprinkler call.”
Noah said as an “unpaid intern” he was supervised by all the guys on his crew, led by Capt. Jim Martell, an officer with a distinguished 29-year career with the Halifax fire department.
“I learned a lot from Capt. Martell, he was a great mentor, and the rest of the crew — Al Thompson, Christian Ruel and Steve Hanham — were all great to work with as well. They must have considered me one of the guys because they pranked me a few times,” said Noah.
“One time I was sitting eating my food. I got up to get something and when I came back they were all sitting there, watching TV. I picked up my juice and took a big mouthful. It was pure salt.”
Noah’s final shift of his on-the-job training produced a memorable experience.
“We were called to a fully involved structure fire. When our truck came over a hill and I saw the smoke, adrenalin shot through my body. We managed to knock down the fire quickly. It was an amazing feeling getting the job done,” said Noah.
Capt. Martell said he enjoyed having Noah on his crew.
“I found Noah to be extremely capable and knowledgeable, and a lot of it has to do with his experience with his volunteer department. Talking with the crew, they all felt he did really well. He is determined, has the right attitude, which is really important, and is always willing to learn, said Capt. Martell.
“Getting along with the crew is super important because crews stay together for 24 hours, so you have to participate. Right from the first day it was like Noah had been here for 10 years,” he said.
“He was open, friendly and quick to provide input. It was great to have someone fit in so well. Wherever he ends up, that department is going to get a great employee. Noah would fit in well here, but if he doesn’t get hired in Halifax, it will be our loss and another fire department’s gain.”
Noah can’t wait for his 19th birthday, signalling his new-guy volunteer status at the Lunenburg fire hall.
“I want to make firefighting my career. It’s definitely a difficult career to get into, so I am going to apply everywhere for a full-time paid position and hopefully someone will take me soon.”