CELORON - It's not every day a 56 year-old joins a volunteer fire department.
It's even more unusual for a father to follow his son into the trade, better known for breeding generations worth of firemen within a family.
But fire officials in Chautauqua County are touting Doug and Jamison Justham as the perfect poster men for recruitment at a time when volunteer firefighters are in high demand - especially in more rural settings.
Doug and Jamison Justham are two new members of the Celoron Hose Company No. 1. Fire officials in the county are hoping to find more recruits to join the volunteer ranks.
P-J photo by Eric Tichy
Officials also hope to promote multiple roles firemen can play at the scene of a fire, far beyond men running into a burning building.
"I think the fire services is starting to reach out and say, 'Hey we really need folks," said Dan Imfeld, county deputy fire coordinator.
Jamison Justham, 19, joined the Celoron Hose Company No. 1 Inc. in April, hoping to become a member of the county HAZMAT team. The Jamestown Community College student looking for a career in emergency management was guided into the volunteer fire fighting effort for training and experience.
Doug Justham, 56, meanwhile, joined the Celoron fire department in October, hoping to expand his volunteer service after serving with the Red Cross in disaster situations. He also saw how much fun his son was having giving back to the community.
"We've always done things together ... but this is the backwards side of it," the elder Justham quipped.
"I joined mostly because I know they need people," Doug continued. "I was never one who wanted to be a firefighter or first responder, but there was a need for volunteers. It comes down to if I don't do it, who will?"
Both men note their paths into volunteering wasn't a common one, albeit the duo is finding the humor in the situation.
"It seems a little backwards because normally the father teaches the son how to do everything," Jamison said. "But since I've been in (the fire department) a little bit longer, I've been kind of showing him the ropes. It's a lot different than usual."
Imfeld said having two members of a family join a fire department is nothing new to the industry.
"Historically we have had a lot of father-daughter, father-son and wife-husbands who were involved with fire services," he said. "What we're trying to do is promote (fire services) and get additional people interested and helping us."
He added: "Joining at a later age isn't that rare anymore. People just don't know that it happens."
Jamison recently completed Firefighter 1 training, a statewide program to train volunteers on interior firefighting. The intensive program is one of many firemen can take to assist at emergency calls. Other training includes: scene support, pump and vehicle operations and emergency medical services, among others.
Doug plans to become an emergency medical technician next year, which will mean almost six months of in-class and hands-on training. He also is looking into taking a Firefighter 1 class of his own, an option that will allow him to follow his son into a burning building.
The thought of Jamison entering a fire, however, has come with some trepidation for Doug.
"The terrifying part was that fire out in Ashville," Doug said. "They were calling for interior fire fighters ... so the thought of your son going into a burning building is one of those things that makes you pray a lot."
But not all moments have been stressful thus far for the family. As with any new member, Doug is finding the fire department a fast-paced environment - none more evident than his first time responding to a fire.
"I thought you were just supposed to get all dressed on get on the truck," Doug said with a laugh. "So I'm just standing back there getting dressed and the truck just leaves. My first fire and I'm standing in the station."
In the meantime, officials are banking on Doug and Jamison's story to recruit more volunteers.
"We're not in crisis mode yet, but we're at the point where we do need to get the word out and hope to attract some volunteers," Imfeld said.