"I've always wanted to be a career firefighter, or a police officer. I just love emergency services and helping people," said James Gallagher, a cadet with the Londonderry Fire Department.
The inspiration for 15-year-old Gallagher-- his dad, who was a New York City police officer during 9/11.
"He had a 9/11-related illness, and he's a volunteer firefighter. He really inspired me to come here," Gallagher said.
Gallagher is one of 34 cadets participating in the annual Vermont State Firefighters Association's Fire Cadet Academy. It's a week-long intensive program for cadets ages 14-17 from 20 different fire departments across Vermont.
"We want them to know everything that's involved in the fire service and make sure it's for them before they go on," explained Chief Fran Buck of the Vermont State Firefighters Association.
Barre City Deputy Fire Chief Joe Aldsworth also says the state needs more volunteer firefighters. Right now in Vermont there are only 11 full-time fire departments out of 236.
"Day times are very hard; everybody works. So programs like this help plug in and beef up those roles because right now they don't really have full staffing," Aldsworth said.
And he hopes programs like this--will help create the next generation.
"As our firefighters age, we need to replace them. So programs like this are very important to be able to plug them in," Aldsworth said.
The cadets participating in this year's academy spend all year developing certain skills at their home fire departments. They are not volunteers just yet. In Vermont, some departments allow you to become a volunteer at the age of 18, others it's 21. But here at the academy it's hands-on training. Instructors say the cadets are put in real-life situations, such as the midnight call. The students simulate being woken up abruptly, putting on all their gear as fast as they can and running to spray the hose at the target.
While the academy may only last a week, some students say they are leaving with the true sense of what it means to be a firefighter.
"The brotherhood in the fire service and EMS and law enforcement is just incredible. The fact that all these people are my brothers makes me happy, pretty big family," said Kaleb Scott Ladue, a cadet with the Swanton Fire Department.
Ready to someday help save lives in the Green Mountain State.