The Norwood Fire Department has begun another Explorer training program, a student-centered program that introduces youth to the skills and experiences of working in the field of firefighting and emergency management services (EMS) with a goal to inspire them to consider working in the field as an adult.
Fire Chief John Bockrath said the department had an Explorer open house on Jan. 25 and saw several students interested in the program. Eight members will participate in this session, including three returning members from last year. Two of the new members are from Telluride.
Bockrath said while he wasn’t permitted to release names, a majority of the students are males, with two females in the group.
This year, the program will be an abbreviated version of last year’s with five sessions of training. Last year was a more general and longer program, not as refined as this year’s.
Bockrath said he and his colleagues have narrowed the focus so “they can really learn and do what they’re supposed to do.”
The group will meet on the second Saturday of every month, starting this week.
The first session focuses on the CPR, AED and first-aid certification required to be a first responder. The sessions over the next few months will concentrate on structural firefighting.
“They will learn proper safety, communications, team work and leadership,” Bockrath said. “We will teach them scene size-up, hose deployment, entry and extinguishment.”
He added the sessions will also include studying the primary and secondary search and removal of victims, along with ventilation techniques and forcible entry.
“They will learn how to properly remove victims and self-extrication,” he said.
Students will be broken up into two engine groups. In those groups, they’ll rotate positions in order to experience different roles. Bockrath said toward the end of the training they’ll get to practice in a competition to see which group can get to the “victim” or the “fire” first, in a safe manner, following the rules.
Already, the group of eight has been issued firefighting gear and will learn now how to use self-contained breathing apparatuses, commonly referred to as SCBAs.
The Norwood Fire Station also has a fog machine, and it’s commonplace for trainees to practice there in a maze, with their gear on, in “smoke” conditions.
Bockrath said the full training will culminate with "putting it all together" on the last Saturday of the program with a special session held at the designated fire burn tower in Montrose. He said the kids will not be placed in real fire conditions, but will experience simulated smoke conditions, created with the use of smoke machines.
Meanwhile, students are permitted to perform ride-along exercises, for observation purposes with patient permission. He said giving them real-world experience is the goal.
Bockrath admitted not every student will fully embrace a future in the field, but he hopes at least a few will consider it after spending this semester studying the work.
“We definitely hope to inspire these kids to move on to be firefighter or EMS personnel, or both,” he said. “And when they’re 18, we hope to get some volunteer members out of them, too.”