In its third year, NVFC's National Junior Firefighter Program is aiming to better educate youth from volunteer departments from across the country.
The organization unveiled its Junior Firefighter Academy at Firehouse Expo in Baltimore over the weekend; something Executive Director Heather Schafer said was in high demand.
The NVFC sent out a survey about a year ago to participating departments and the academy program was something that was requested, she said.
"We try to give them what they want."
There are plans being made to offer the class at state conferences beginning later this year.
She said the academy -- and the junior program itself -- helps fill a big need for volunteer departments
"Retention and recruitment is important right now," she said. "If we can give them a flavor for it, they'll be back."
The academy was split into two sessions, one for juniors and the other for advisers. NVFC Executive Committee member Bob Timko said the knowledge provided at the academy assists departments with setting goals for what each program wants to accomplish.
"They get to hear from experienced leaders and connect with other programs from across the country," he said.
Rachel Higginbotham, Director of the National Junior Firefighter Program, said the program as a whole started with less than 100 junior firefighters and are now approximately 1,400 juniors and 1,200 participating departments throughout the U.S.
She said the launch of the program's Web site played a big role in expanding the program.
"It really started to spread across the country," she said. "I think that the biggest difference is for the smaller rural departments and those starting one from scratch."
Mike Barnett, the Junior Firefighter Program Coordinator at the Elkridge, Md. Volunteer Fire Department said that before the NVFC's involvement, there was no way for him to get in contact with other programs.
"We had worked with some of them before, but now we have a better point of contact," he said. "I've noticed that it gives us a universal language. We can now connect with other junior programs from our area and from across the country."