Eastside Fire & Rescue recently launched its inaugural Fire Explorers program, aiming to offer a closer option for local youth interested in fire service.
The 20-week program aims to give Eastlake and Issaquah High School students an insight into fire service. Students 14 to 18 years old will receive hands-on experience through activities and drills that demonstrate what a fire service career entails.
“Our goal is to give exposure to the fire services,” said Lt. Tom Tull, who is organizing the program. “This could give [teens] the avenue to figure out whether or not [the fire service] is suitable for them… and then along the way they’ll learn some valuable skills as well.”
Tull added that it can be critical for youths to start early in career development and the program will be a stepping stone for anyone interested in the fire service. The orientation meeting was held on Oct. 10, and 20 sessions will be held every other Wednesday from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Fire Station 82, located at 1851 228th Ave. NE, Sammamish.
Eastside Fire & Rescue serves the Carnation, Issaquah, May Valley, North Bend, Preston, Tiger Mountain, Sammamish and Wilderness Rim communities. The first year of the Fire Explorers post will focus on the Issaquah community, but the department hopes to expand the program soon.
Specifically, the program hopes to help the 30 or so kids gain personal confidence, responsibility, leadership and teamwork values while teaching them about firefighting, emergency management, problem solving and community service.
“It really just touches base with multiple aspects of the fire service,” Tull said. “Every single week is going to be different. We’re not looking for kids to master these skills, we want to provide them exposure and just grasp what the fire service is about.”
The final quarter of the program will revolve around the “muster”— a friendly competition between surrounding Fire Explorer posts in June 2019. Teams will compete in physical challenges, related to firefighting, in attempts to win various awards.
“The teams go head to head,” Tull said. “Its just a fun competition.”
Any student within the age limit from Eastlake or Issaquah High Schools can join the program at any point during the year, even if they’ve missed the orientation meeting.
“Anybody can come throughout the year, we encourage participation,” Tull said. “At this point, [if] anybody who has an interest in it reaches out to contact us, we’ll make a point to get them in the program A.S.A.P.”
Eastside Fire & Rescue decided to offer the program to give local youth a fire explorers program that’s closer to home.
“Unfortunately, with the way that commutes are now and just how busy everybody is, it doesn’t really make sense for somebody who’s a high school student in Issaquah to drive to Shoreline to attend an hour and a half drill,” Tull said.
The Fire Explorers post is launching for only two high schools, as a pilot program in the area, but Eastside Fire & Rescue plans to expand it depending on the first year’s success.
“We’re very happy with the 30 kids who have signed up so far,” Tull said. “As the program gains steam and we get more and more people involved, we’d like to expand to all the high schools in the area, but that’s going to come down to budget and time management.”