Local student to compete in national firefighting competition
Berkeley Springs High School junior Jason Fonck has a busy summer ahead of him.
In the space of one week in June, Fonck will compete in two national emergency response competitions – one for firefighting, the other for emergency response. A few weeks after that, he'll become a full member of the Berkeley Springs Volunteer Fire Company.
The 17-year-old has been following his interest in firefighting for two years, joining the fire company's Explorer organization and working his way up to being a probationary member at the station.
Fonck also just completed James Rumsey's year-long Emergency and Fire Services Technology course. The class gives him certification in two levels of firefighting, hazardous materials handling, driving a fire engine and operating a pumper and emergency medical procedures. Once he takes the state boards at 18, he will be a certified EMT.
Despite the fact that he still has one year of high school to complete, Fonck has the skills and experience to be hired by almost any professional fire or rescue company.
Last year, Fonck ran 169 calls with Berkeley Springs Vol. Fire Company, nearly a third of the company's 622 calls for 2007.
He also volunteers to take calls with the Morgan County Rescue Service, which is largely a paid rescue squad.
Fonck says his short-term goal is to join a professional fire company, though he also wants to earn an Associate's degree in Fire Science, and maybe pursue a career as a Fire Marshal.
With his level of commitment to fire service, it's surprising that there isn't a tradition of firefighting in Fonck's family. His father is retired from the military and brought the family to Morgan County three years ago. Fonck has shared his interest in emergency service with his older brother, though.
Fire Chief J.J. Steiner said Fonck's early start with Berkeley Springs' fire department will serve the young man well, and already is a great help to the company.
The most important thing is to capture his interest when he's young, and he'll grow up in that atmosphere, Steiner said.
Volunteers who start later in life often don't continue their firefighting past 10 years, said Steiner. As a way to show their encouragement for Fonck's skills and commitment, Berkeley Springs Vol. Fire Company contributed $1,000 to the young man's travel expenses to attend the two national competitions in June.
Steiner promised Fonck a parade through town if he wins the national events.
Fonck's teacher, Jeff Sager, said the young man has the skills and dedication to win at the national competition.
He has book smarts and street smarts, Sager said. Sager directs James Rumsey Technical Institute's Emergency and Fire Services program.
Dallas and Kansas City ahead
At the Health Occupations Students of America (HOSA) National Conference in Dallas, Fonck's Community Emergency Response Team will face a disaster situation and have to prioritize emergency services to meet the crisis. The team will have to complete written tests and timed equipment trials as well.
Just seven days later, Fonck will fly to Kansas City for the SKILLS USA Firefighting Competition. He will compete against vocational firefighting students from across the country.
They'll be tested on safety, breathing apparatus, fire streams, ladders, ropes, knots and hoses, fire control, ventilation, emergency medical care and rescue, and protecting fire cause evidence, according to SkillsUSA.
The Firefighting contest evaluates the contestant's preparation for firefighting careers through hands-on skill demonstrations and both written and oral presentations, said the career organization's website about the event.
No matter what happens at the national competitions, Fonck is clearly dedicated to a life in emergency response
When the call comes in, you kind of go into a different mode, you go right to your training, he said.
It's a rush. I like helping the community and I always wanted to help people. It really is like a brotherhood, Fonck said of his chosen field.