We were still in our gowns, and we still had our diplomas with us and we stripped off our gowns. I didn’t even realize I still had my tie on.Peter Rizzo, 17, explaining how he and some of his classmates left their high school graduation to help put out a fire. The students, all either 17 or 18 years old, volunteer at their local New York fire department.
- Six students from Long Island, New York were at their high school graduation taking post-ceremony photos when they received word of a nearby fire.
- The newly-graduated students from Port Jefferson High School went straight to the firehouse, put on their protective gear, and responded to a structure fire at the house of one of their classmates (who had also attended the graduation ceremony that day).
- "They have each shown tremendous dedication to the Department and community. We are very proud of them and wish them well as they move on to college in the fall. The fire was handled without injury or extension to any other structures," stated the fire department on Facebook.
Context: Currently at the Port Jefferson Fire Department, all 75 members of the team are volunteers, including 8 high schoolers. Assistant chief of the department Christian Neubert told SmartHER News that these high schoolers are "actually the firefighters that respond as first responders on front line apparatus."
History: The Port Jefferson Fire Department has been in operation since 1887!
Why It Matters: Over half of fire department personnel in the U.S. are volunteer firefighters (based on data provided by U.S. Fire Administration). The high school graduates are from New York, where about 90% of all fire fighters in the state are volunteers.
by Jenna Lee,