On AJ Ridge’s 14th birthday, he submitted his application to volunteer at the Southampton Fire Company.
“I’m a fifth generation firefighter with the Southampton Fire Company. I wanted to continue the legacy and give back to my community like I saw my dad and grandfather do,” said AJ, who is turning 19 next month.
“Ages 14 through 16 is a crucial time for junior firefighters. It’s a lot of pre-training and learning before you go to fire school,” said AJ. “You’re supporting the active firefighters and learning life skills.”
AJ started taking courses and receiving hands-on training at the Bucks County Fire School at age 15. When he turned 16 at the end of the course, he then earned his Firefighter I certification.
“It was a crazy time being in fire school and high school at the same time,” said AJ, who dedicated over 200 hours to fire training.
From 16-17, AJ was a riding junior, meaning he could go on the calls and perform exterior operations on the fireground, such as equipment setup, running hoses and supporting the senior members. After he turned 18 last February, he earned his interior firefighting certification and could go inside buildings on emergency calls.
“The junior firefighting program really shows you what the fireground is like and prepares you for turning 18,” said AJ.
He volunteers with his dad, Dave, who is the Assistant Chief, and sees his grandfather at membership meetings. AJ says volunteering with his dad is one of the best parts.
“We are able to bond every day. I push him to reach his goals and he pushes me to reach mine,” said AJ. “We are always achieving new things together.”
In addition to firefighting, AJ serves on the Membership and Fire Prevention committees and is the head of Communications for pagers and portable radios. When he’s not firefighting, he works as a foreman at an electrical business. Thanks to the fire company, AJ was already familiar with following the chain of command and working together to accomplish goals.
“On every call, I enjoy seeing everyone come together and work as a team to get the job done in very stressful situations,” said AJ. “The only way we’re effective is working as one fluid crew.”
No matter someone’s background or skills, there is an opportunity to contribute in a meaningful way at Southampton Fire Company.
“I would challenge anyone to give volunteering a try,” said AJ. “If it doesn’t work out then it doesn’t work out, but if it does, you will create a lifetime of memories.”
Learn more about how you can volunteer at www.JoinSouthamptonFire.org.