At some point in their lives, nearly every child probably imagines what it would be like to be a firefighter when they grow up. The equipment, the danger and the heroic image all hold a certain appeal.
As time goes on, however, school and sports or other activities begin to fill the schedule and many teens, while they may still be interested in fire fighting, don’t see an opportunity to pursue that interest until they are old enough to join local departments at the age of 18.
Thanks to a new program offered by the Norwood Young America, Cologne and Hamburg Fire Departments, however, that is about to change.
The three fire departments are combining forces to start a new Fire Service Exploring program for students age 14-18 that will give interested individuals hands-on opportunities to participate in firefighter training, become comfortable with the use of equipment and gear, and even go out on calls as observers, or provide support service at emergency scenes after the incident has been dealt with.
Those experiences will help students prepare to pass firefighting tests when they are old enough to join the departments as regular members, and will also help the departments keep their ranks full over time.
Hamburg Fire Chief Brad Droege said he began considering the benefits of an Explorer program last summer because Hamburg and other local departments are short of daytime firefighters. While members of the Explorers program won’t be able to participate actively in emergencies, they traditionally have acted as a feeder program in other communities that have produced skilled and motivated individuals who are all but ready to step into regular duty when they reach the appropriate age.
“We’ll pretty much going to go with the Firefighter 1 curriculum, so they’ll learn how to fight fires, climb ladders, use nozzles and radios and turnout gear, do extrication and first-aid, all those types of things,” said Droege. “A lot of [Explorers] are trained first responders when they come out of this. A lot of them will go right through the Firefighter 1 course after this and pass with flying colors.”
While firefighters have passed out some information about the program at Central High School and have held an initial meeting, they are currently focused on getting the word out to drum up participation. Only five students are needed to start a chapter, and firefighters areconfident that once students recognize that the program is more about hands-on training than classroom lectures, the program will take off like the Exploring chapter in Chaska has.
For the rest of this story, see the Jan. 17 edition of the NYA Times.