‘Nothing but magical’

Christian Bojczak built a new roof simulator for the Neshanic Volunteer Fire Company for his Eagle Scout project

Christian Bojczak, of Troop 1776 in Hillsborough, with Neshanic Fire Chief CJ Davis. Bojczak built a new roof simulator for the department for his Eagle Scout project. PHOTO COURTESY OF CHRISTIAN BOJCZAK

It was a sight to see. Firefighters of the Neshanic Volunteer Fire Company were working on cutting a roof with a chain saw. Then smoke started billowing out into the onlooking crowd.

Good thing the smoke was non-toxic “sugar water,” assured Neshanic Fire Chief CJ Davis. The firefighters were just testing out their brand-new roof simulator thanks to an Eagle Scout project by Christian Bojczak, of Troop 1776 in Hillsborough, on Sept. 21.

“The Neshanic Volunteer Fire Company was in need of a new roof simulator to teach firefighters how to safely climb on a roof to cut into and ventilate the smoke out [similar] to a real home,” Bojczak explained.

The department’s former roof simulator was in “unusable condition” and essentially eaten by the environment with overgrown weeds, bee hives, destroyed shingles, and unstable wood.

“I came up with the idea of an Eagle Project when I was donating clothing in the donation bin that is located right near the roof simulator,” Bojczak said. “I made it a point to find the fire chief [and ask] what the structure was. He explained to me what the simulator was used for and how the fire department had not been able to use the old structure in quite a few years.”

The new roof simulator will be used by fire trainees. They will learn to use a chainsaw to cut through the shingles and plywood to open the flow of oxygen and vent out the smoke in order to allow firefighters to enter the structure, according to Bojczak said, adding the plywood can be recut and reused at least six times, giving the volunteers several training sessions at one time. Also the structure can be used by trainees year-round.

“The process of designing the simulator started on a napkin, using a diagram,” Bojczak said. “We began with a base to place below the structure. I decided that placing a gravel base below the simulator would increase the lifetime … disconnected from the grass would remove the chances of rotting.”

The roof simulator took about five days to build.

“I was assisted by Dan from Dannton Construction and my father, David Bojczak from Long Hill Contracting LLC when building the physical structure itself, and then was assisted with painting, planting, and mulching from Troop 1776,” Bojczak said.

For the project, Bojczak said he had to step out of his comfort zone and lead others. Seeing his project in action was “nothing short of a magical experience.”

“As I continued to pursue my Eagle Scout project, I became more and more educated on how the process of a roof simulator works,” he said. “Evidently, it brought my own curiosity to witness an in-person demonstration.

“However, what truly amazed me was watching a project that started off as a napkin sketch come to life and used for the very first time.”

Bojczak, 17, has been a Scout for 10 years. He started Cub Scouts in Piscataway and when he moved to Hillsborough, he joined the Cub Scouts in the township. After finishing Cub Scouts, he joined Troop 1776 and started his Boy Scout journey.

“I really enjoy getting a sense of individuality from Boy Scouts,” he said. “I have always been a shy person and one of the hardest experiences I faced when I was younger was going to a one-week sleep-away camp. Being away from home, let me build on my confidence in working alone and taking care of myself.  I learned to lean on others and learn how to survive and thrive as a Scout.”