By REBECCA HAZEN
The Trenton-Dade Fire and EMS Explorers is a youth program that allows kids ages 13-21 to learn about and get involved with the Fire and EMS departments. A year into the program’s start, the Explorers have recently gained enough experience to be able to respond to fire related calls.
“When they come to the station, we go over basic things such as truck familiarization, tools and what they can be used for, and how they can help us on the scene of a fire,” Trenton-Dade firefighter Cody Doyle explained.
“We’ve gotten the kids trained up to a point where we feel safe bringing them on an active scene,” Doyle said. “The firefighters here in Trenton all have multiple years of experience. The kids are safe with us. We will not put them in any type of dangerous situation. The Explorers are covered by insurance. When the fire is actively going, or if there is entrapment, they will not be in the hot zone while activity is happening.”
The Explorers will watch the firefighters work an active scene. It will be their job to get the firefighters equipment as needed. Once the scene is no longer hot, and transfers into a cold zone, the Explorers are allowed to go in and spray water and help put out hot spots.
“They really enjoy going out on scenes. The kids are a great help. They love being able to help our communities,” Doyle said.
According to Doyle, the program was started because the rate of volunteer firefighters retiring is skyrocketing.
“We’re getting to a point now that the departments in the county may only have three or four personnel. When you call 911, you want someone to show up. We had to get the youth interested in the fire department, and they can hopefully serve their communities when they become of age. That’s what I did. I started in a junior program when I was 16,” Doyle said.
Going forward, the Explorers program hopes to have sign ups for students at the beginning of the school year, and there will be a set curriculum, the state course for support firefighters. The organizers would also like to have the Explorers go through an abbreviated version of EMR (Emergency Medical Responder) training.
The Support Firefighter curriculum includes learning about the tools and trucks, understanding the dangers of fire scenes, understanding fire dynamics and fire science, and basic first aid training. In addition, the students will be CPR trained.
“The kids that have been there already for the last year will be group leaders, what we will call Explorer 1. Once you get promoted to Explorer 1, you can be allowed to respond on trucks. They will have their own curriculum aside from the new students,” Doyle said.
Doyle noted that there are a lot of volunteer firefighters in Dade County, and if anyone is interested in becoming one, all they have to do is walk into a station and ask.
“We are more than happy to let you check out what we do. That’s the great first step to learning. This Explorer program gets that first step started at a young age,” Doyle said.
Avery White, 16, is in the Explorers program.
“I have always been interested, I have a lot of family in the fire service. It seemed like a good opportunity to see what they do on a day-to-day basis,” White said.
White said that he enjoys getting to watch the firefighters work together as a team while on scene.
“We had a fire last Friday off of Highway 11. It was interesting. They sprayed the fire from outside the window. Everyone was pretty calm. Everyone had a job to do,” White said.
“It teaches kids responsibly at a young age, teamwork, and work ethics. That is something I feel a lot of organizations lack these days. It can help engage a young person in their community as well. Really, all we do is community service,” Doyle said.
For more information about the Explorers, call Trenton City Hall, at (706) 657-4167, and ask for Trenton-Dade Assistant Fire Chief Ansel Smith.