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Explorer Scout program teaches Paradise teens to be firefighters

November 5th, 2009 Posted in Arts and Life

by Seili Lewis

PARADISE–Troy Fredrickson has been fighting fires in Paradise for 25 years.

Fredrickson is chief of the town’s volunteer fire department. He wanted to be a firefighter ever since he was a “snot-nosed kid coming around because fire is cool,” he said.

Fredrickson said that interest by the town’s children in volunteering spurred his efforts to find a way to let them. He said he found out about a program through the Boy Scouts that got youth involved in the police force, and through further research, he found the Explorer Scout program.

The Explorer program offered by the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) is now available to the citizens of Paradise. The opportunity is available to boys and girls from age 14 to 21. The program is meant to give young people the chance to train alongside real law enforcement officers as well as firefighters and many other professions.

Fredrickson said he started training at the youngest age possible. The age limit for being a firefighter is 18. The Explorers as they are called by the crew can be as young as 14 years old. They are not fully fledged firefighters, but they are given the opportunity to work closely with the volunteers and learn the tricks of the trade while keeping at a safe distance from the more hazardous parts of the job.

The department trains every Wednesday evening at about 6:30 for around two to four hours a week. They train for all aspects of the trade from personal well being, getting their emergency medical technician (EMT) certification, and training for the multiple fitness test required of firefighters who work in both wildland fires and house fires. The Explorers also participate in the training sessions and learn valuable skills like rescue breathing and basic first aid.

On scene the explorer’s duties are to keep track of equipment and provide oxygen tanks when necessary to the firefighters. The Explorer’s role is basically to support the firefighters and to assist them while keeping well back from flames and falling structures.

Each firefighter and Explorer has a pager that calls them out to an incident. The calls can be for a range of purposes such as car accidents, wildland fires and house fires.

One incident they were called out on, said Fredrickson, was because a guy was trying to smoke cats out from underneath his house and accidentally caught the house on fire.

“It’s very personal out here in a small town because you know everyone.” Fredrickson said.

All the volunteer firefighters and a few female supervisors were also trained by the BSA about what aspects of firefighting the explorers are allowed to participate in. The BSA is in part responsible for the Explorers in the program and that means that their insurance will cover any accidents that might befall the youth. The female supervisors are part of the program so that they can offer the Explorer experience to girls that are interested as well as boys.

Fredrickson’s two children, a boy age 13 and girl age 9, are both interested in taking over the position of fire chief and the department from their father but they are both still too young to participate in the Explorer program. Fredrickson said he thinks his children’s ambitions were great. “We live in a world where volunteerism is dying.”

He said most of the firefighters have training above and beyond what is necessary, “that is a lot of hours, that’s quite a sacrifice.”

Fredrickson said, his main reason for volunteering for so long is “because maybe at one time I wasn’t such a good person” and it’s rewarding when the people you help are glad to see you.

Best of all, Fredrickson said, the camaraderie you experience working in such a tight nit group makes you feel like you are part of something bigger and they are part of your family.

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