ELYSBURG - Twenty-four youths were taught skills that could one day prevent property damage and loss of life at Saturday's day one of Fire Cadet Weekend at the Elysburg Fire Department.

Forty volunteers from 15 agencies assisted cadets in courses including search and rescue, vehicle rescue and hose advancement.

The two-day event preps children ages 11 to 17 to become junior firefighters, a step away from full-fledged firefighter at age 18.

The program focuses on fire services; however, cadets are trained to react to a variety of emergency scenarios.

The concept for the program is credited to Elysburg Assistant Chief Harvey Boyer, who was inspired after his son attended Camp Cadet, a state police program that attracts youths into a life of police protection.

Boyer wanted something similar in the area to increase the number of youths involved with fire protection. In its third year, the program has been a success, supported by the fact that several past graduates have become juniors or firefighters with area fire departments, he said.

"We once only had one or two junior firefighters, now we have around 12," he said of his department. "The program is a combined exposure to almost every aspect of emergency services. All of the instructors are volunteers who hold rank with their department."

New this year is "career day," a roundtable type setting that provides cadets an opportunity to ask full-time professionals lifestyle questions. That's part of today's agenda, which also includes a CPR class, a visit by Life Flight helicopter and ladder trucks from Warrior Run and Bloomsburg fire departments. Fire Cadet Weekend wraps up with a graduation ceremony.