CHS senior joins Clare Fire Department

April 19, 2019

By Pat Maurer

Noah Johnson, alias Smokey the Bear last Saturday, is a Clare High School senior and the Clare Fire Department’s newest probationary firefighter.
“It’s something I’ve always wanted to do,” Noah said. “My Dad was a firefighter in South Bend Indiana when I was little. I remember riding on the fire trucks during parades.”

Noah Johnson, shown here with Clare Fire Chief Jim Chapman, is the Clare Fire Department’s newest firefighter.

Noah, his mother Michelle VanSicklen and younger sister – also a Clare High School student, moved to Michigan ten years ago and moved to Clare when Noah was just finishing his freshman year in high school.

As “Smokey”, Noah entertained the youngsters at the Clare Eggstravaganza last Saturday, along with Clare firefighters who attend the annual event. “It’s a lot of fun for us,” Clare Fire Chief Jim Chapman said.

Chapman said Noah is the first student to join the department that he can remember. “This is awesome,” he said. “Firefighting is a young man’s game and we have an aging fleet.” He noted, “We need more firefighters on the department and it is a great opportunity for anyone over the age of 18 (Noah is 19 years old).

Smokey chats with a youngster at the Clare Egg Drop last weekend. Photo by Bob Guiliani

He said a probationary firefighter, until he completes 180 hours of classroom and practical Firefighter I and II training and becomes “certified,” will “observe” and participate in a “non-entry” position on the department. That means he can participate in department runs, but cannot enter a burning building. Once training is complete he becomes a number 1 certified firefighter to be on a volunteer department like Clare, or a number 2 certified firefighter on a full-time department. Training for both certifications is held at the same time.

Noah said he will be joining the Army Reserves after graduation. He will leave for AIT (Advanced Individual Training) for eight to nine weeks of training in early June. After that he will be back in Clare and serving on the Fire Department. When asked what he wants to train for in the Army, he said, “I’d like to train as a firefighter.”

Smokey the Bear (Noah Johnson) and the Easter Bunny have some fun with youngsters at Clare’s annual Easter Eggstravaganza and Egg Drop at the Clare Municipal Airport April 13th. Photo by Bob Guiliani

He already is a firefighter in Clare and will go from a probationary status to “certified” after he completes the CFD Firefighter Training session which usually begins in January, Chapman said. “It’s held locally.”

He continued, “Being a volunteer firefighter is a great opportunity for those over 18 years old. Probationary firefighters earn $10 an hour and have a chance to explore a new career. We have had interest from other high school students, but Noah is the first to join while still a student in school.”

Chapman said he has been looking into developing a Cadet Firefighter program for the Clare department to stimulate more interest in joining the Fire Department.

“We have great people on our department,” Chapman said, “but we are still shorthanded. We need more firefighters.”

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