2013-09-13 / In the Know

Fire Explorer program starting soon

By B. Michael Thurlow Special contributor

The Scarborough Fire Department is pleased to announce that it is starting a new Fire Explorer Post this fall.

The Fire Explorer program is part of the Boy Scouts of America Learning for Life program. The goal is to support schools and communitybased organizations in their efforts to prepare youth to successfully handle the complexities of contemporary society and to enhance their self-confidence, motivation, and self-esteem. The program also helps develop social and life skills, assists in character development, and helps youngsters formulate positive values and make ethical decisions.

The Scarborough Fire Department Explorer Post is looking for high school students who are at least 15 years old that are interested in learning about public safety. The post will meet twice a month on the first and third Sunday of each month from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Public Safety Building classroom. The post will function like a real company including participating in training, and actual response. The Explorers will earn promotional opportunities to company officer ranks and will then help lead and organize the post.

Veteran fire department officers and members will provide supervision, guidance and training. Fifteen-year-olds will start as probationary members learning about the program. Sixteen- and 17-year-olds will be trained and equipped with firefighter’s personal protective equipment to respond to certain types of actual emergency calls to gain real world experience.

Once an Explorer turns 18 they become eligible to apply for full call company membership in the fire department.

Recruitment and retention of call firefighters has become a real challenge for fire departments across the country and Scarborough isn’t any different. Most people in town ride by our stations, see activity, and receive outstanding service when they call for our assistance. They incorrectly believe we are a fully career staffed department 24/7 in all six stations but that isn’t true.

We only have a skeleton crew of full time personnel primarily assigned to our very busy ambulances. We have a cadre of per-diem personnel who work primarily day shifts in each station to assure we have adequate crews when most of our call members are at their own jobs and unable to respond. At night four of our six stations have no on-duty coverage, so we still depend on call members who augment our full and per-diem staff and respond to calls in their local neighborhoods.

The intent of this new Fire Explorer program is to get high school-age students interested in public service generally and the fire service specifically. Within the Fire Explorer program we will provide the structured mentoring and educational support necessary for their success.

Students will have the opportunity to explore first-hand the physical and mental demands of training and emergency first response. They will learn about options for firefighter certification and emergency medical technician licensing through the Westbrook Vocational School and the opportunities provided through the Fire Science Program at Southern Maine Community College as they prepare for the college application process. And while they are learning fire and EMS skills they will also be learning the life skills mentioned above that will serve them well for the rest of their lives and help them contribute to society and to our community.

The department is holding an informational orientation of the new Fire Explorer program on Sunday, Oct. 6 starting at 6:30 p.m. at the Scarborough Public Safety Classroom, 246 Route 1.

If you have a high school student that is interested in learning more about the program, please send me a note at mthurl@ ci.scarborough.me.us or call the office 730- 4201, so we can add their name to the list.

B. Michael Thurlow is fire chief for Scarborough.

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