SUAMICO, Wis. (WFRV) – The Howard and Suamico Fire Departments are recruiting future firefighters at Bay Port High School.

Both agencies were among the only 2 others in the state to receive a $25,000 grant to purchase the protective equipment for their new program, ‘Building Up Future Firefighters.’

Chief Joe Bertler with the Suamico Fire Department says, “It’s a great opportunity for not only us but community-wide. It benefits the citizens of both Howard and Suamico, and it gets more young adults interested in this service.”

Before the program, the Suamico Fire Department provided internships with Bay Port. Junior Autumn Bloohm interned last summer and is now a certified firefighter.

“It was the best summer of my life. I learned so much about the community,” Bloohm says.

Up to 24 students can enroll in the program next school year.

Bloohm states, “They’re really surprised. They ask what my occupation is, and I’m very fortunate to say the Suamico Fire Department. It’s really cool to share with them that you’re able to do an adult-type job at such a young age.”

For the fire departments, getting younger people interested in the field has been difficult, especially women. Bloohm represented her department.

“It was alarming how many potential female firefighters were interested. It was probably a 4-1 ratio, which is kind of a new trend in the industry,” Bertler says.

Bertler also tells Local 5 that about one-third of their department comprises women.

Bloohm says about representing women in fire rescue, “Not many women have had the opportunity to do that. We have the jobs that everyone thinks we’re going to have as a nurse or a teacher, and to be able to do it and have the strength to do it is really powerful.”

Bloohm hopes to one day be a full-time firefighter and EMT.